Hospital Responding to Capacity Challenges, Designating Family Points-of-Contact
HILLSDALE, Mich.—Across the country, COVID-19 cases are increasing including significant surges in hospitalized patients in many communities. As the nation experiences the impact of the global pandemic, Hillsdale Hospital’s team continues to make preparations to care for the local community. According to data from the Branch-Hillsdale-St. Joseph Community Health Agency, in the past seven days Hillsdale County has seen an increase of 248 COVID-19 positive cases. Based on the Michigan Department of Health & Human Services’ publicly reported data, nearly four times as many new cases were identified in Hillsdale County in November than in October. In addition, the hospitalization rate has increased significantly. In the past seven days, Hillsdale Hospital has been averaging 13.3 COVID-19 positive inpatients at any given time, nearly doubling since the first week of November when the seven-day average was 7.1.
“Hillsdale Hospital staff continue to safely screen, diagnose and care for patients with respiratory illnesses, including those at risk for COVID-19,” Rachel Lott, director of marketing and development, said. “We continue to use current local and national data, analytics, and public data sets for predictive modeling and are prepared to serve our patients, who are also our family, neighbors and friends.”
At this time, based on the number of patients hospitalized for COVID-19 and seasonal fluctuations, Hillsdale Hospital is experiencing inpatient hospital capacity challenges. The hospital has prepared for these patient census increases and the need to serve an increased number of inpatients who are experiencing more severe illness than those treated in earlier stages of the pandemic.
“Out of an abundance of caution, Hillsdale Hospital has deployed the Hospital Incident Command System (HICS) to address the ongoing high census and increasing community COVID-19 test positivity rates,” Lott said. “Command staff are in place to ensure the beds, procedure capacity and spaces are available to accommodate needed staff, technology, supplies, equipment and services.”
The hospital is also deploying strategies to mitigate staffing shortages as more patients are requiring a higher level of care, which means a higher ratio of care staff to patients is needed.
“We’re pulling registered nurses and certified nursing assistants from other areas of the organization that don’t typically work in direct patient care to help meet staffing needs and ensure that we have the team in place to care for the high volume of patients we’re seeing,” Lott said.
The hospital also has a multitude of enhanced safety measures in place to keep patients and staff safe.
“We restricted visitors a month ago, we’re continuing to screen every person who walks through our doors, including staff, and we’re testing all scheduled surgical patients prior to their procedures,” Lott said. “Our environmental services team includes staff who are certified by the American Hospital Association for their expertise in cleaning, disinfecting and sanitizing healthcare facilities. They are working around the clock to conduct constant cleaning throughout the hospital and quickly prepare rooms for the next patient coming in.”
Because staff are taking care of sicker patients than is typical and visitors are restricted, Hillsdale Hospital is launching a new Patient Supporter Program, asking all incoming patients and their family members to designate a single point-of-contact for updates on the patient’s condition, treatment, discharge plan, etc.
“One of the challenges that comes with the need to limit visitors is the process of communicating with patient families and loved ones during a patient’s stay, and we know that engagement is critical to a patient’s care,” Lott said. “Right now, we’re seeing multiple loved ones call in multiple times a day for updates on the same patient’s condition, so our physicians and nurses are spending valuable time repeating information to multiple different people when they need to be focused on taking care of the patients in the hospital. This is where we need help from patient family members or loved ones.”
The hospital is limiting that communication to one person per patient, as the current volume of calls is unmanageable, and asking that individual to be the point-of-contact for the rest of the family or loved ones concerned about the patient’s care. When that person can help distribute information to others, it frees up time for nurses and physicians to spend caring for their patients. Hillsdale Hospital is also exploring additional HIPAA-compliant platforms to allow more regular communication with families to provide peace of mind and keep them engaged in the patient’s care in a more efficient way.
Hillsdale Hospital continues to encourage members of the community to wear masks in public places, limit gatherings with individuals outside their households, social distance and wash their hands frequently.
“We also need the help of our community to reverse the trend of increasing cases and hospitalizations in the Hillsdale area so we don’t end up in the dire circumstances that many of our counterparts in healthcare have already faced during this pandemic,” Lott said. “To safeguard our healthcare workers, as well as those in the community who are more susceptible to severe complications and illness due to COVID-19, individuals can exercise their right to take these precautions.”
For those who have scheduled healthcare appointments, like lab testing, mammograms, etc., it is equally important that individuals do not postpone or cancel those appointments for fear of contracting COVID-19 in the hospital or its clinics.
“The risks of delaying healthcare are far greater than that of COVID-19 exposure within our facilities, which are safer than ever,” Lott said. “We are screening everyone, requiring all persons to wear masks, engaging in constant hand-washing and cleaning our facility top-to-bottom multiple times a day, including wiping down equipment after every single patient. This type of infection control process is not new for us.”
Ultimately, the hospital and its team are prepared to take care of patients in the community, taking a proactive, all-hands-on-deck approach to ensure that sick individuals have access to the care they need.
“Our team is stepping up in a big way to be here for our community,” Lott said. “In times like these, people either band together or they break. Our incredible team is banding together to take care of the sickest among us during this time.”
For more information on Hillsdale Hospital’s COVID-19 response, visit hillsdalehospital.com/coronavirus.