By Mary-Justine Lanyon
The main goal of Mountains Community Hospital during the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic is to keep what the hospital calls “clean” patients – those without respiratory symptoms – separate from “dirty” patients – those who present with cough, fever and breathing difficulties.
To that end, the disaster team – under the direction of CEO Charlie Harrison, COO and Chief Nursing Operator Terry Pena and Disaster Coordinator Renee Limpus – has put together an ever-evolving plan.
They have now installed several 40-foot pods in the parking area in front of the hospital, an area now known as Pod City. One pod will serve as a waiting room, with chairs spaced the appropriate distance apart. Another has two sides – one for patients who present with respiratory symptoms, the other for patients with other medical issues. Each side has four cots.
“Right now,” said Pena, “we are screening and treating all patients inside the emergency department. As the volume of patients rises, we will shift out to the pods.”
MCH asks all patients to call prior to coming to the hospital. If a patient has fever, a cough and difficulty breathing, they should call the hotline: (909) 436-3113. Those with other medical issues should call (909) 436-3080.
When patients arrive, a nurse will screen them in their vehicles prior to taking them to the waiting room.
But even before making that call, said Limpus, the staff recommends that patients call their primary care physician. Should someone not have a PCP, they can call the Rural Health Clinic at (909) 336-1957 to make an appointment.
Manager Lauren West said they will meet the patient at their car with a mask and guide them into two rooms set aside at the Lake Arrowhead clinic for patients with respiratory problems. They have divided the Rural Health Clinic in the medical building into two areas, one for “clean” and one for “dirty” patients.
The Rural Health Clinic in Running Springs continues to see patients with non-respiratory symptoms.
Pena anticipates the volume of patients to rise. When it does, Pod City will become the emergency department and the present ED will serve only respiratory patients needing additional care.
There are five beds in the hospital’s ED. They have installed plastic walls with zippered doors between them.
Currently there are two patients with respiratory issues in the medical-surgical wing. Staff is waiting for their COVID-19 tests to come back. “They are highly suspect for COVID-19,” Pena said, “but they are not on ventilators.”
The Centers for Disease Control, Limpus said, “has limited when we can test.” MCH is no longer testing outpatients, only those whose symptoms warrant hospitalization. They can test inpatients, she noted, “for the safety of the staff and the patient. Then we know if we have to abide by PPE standards.”
As for the hospital’s supply of personal protective equipment, Pena said they have an adequate number of n95 masks but they are so low on gowns, they are using some regular cotton gowns they can launder. Non-essential staff is using regular cotton masks.
There is no official start date for the pods to be used, Pena said. “It depends on the volume of patients. But we want the community to know we are prepared.”
“We want to stress that people need to call ahead,” Harrison said. “We don’t want cars backed up on Hospital Road. Call and make an appointment.” He added they are considering bringing patients in the back way, up Torrey Road, to clear the way for ambulances.