ANACORTES — Island Hospital is adding safety measures to attempt to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19.
As of 6 a.m. Friday, new precautions will be in place. The number of entrances at the hospital will be reduced, everyone entering will go through a screening process and visitors will be limited, said hospital CEO Charles Hall.
Until further notice, only five public entrances will be available to patients and visitors. After screening, anyone who does not display symptoms (such as a cough and shortness of breath) will receive a sticker to designate them as symptom-free. That sticker must be worn inside the building.
The hospital is also working on getting equipment in place to be able to take the temperature of anyone entering the building.
Only two immediate family members will be allowed with patients in the inpatient units, and only one visitor will be allowed at a time at the Emergency Department. Visiting hours are limited from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., with no visitors under age 12 allowed.
“In this unprecedented time, our healthcare system plays a critical role in meeting the needs of and protecting our community. We work to follow the expert guidance and adopt the latest practices. Thank you for your understanding and support,” Hall said in a statement.
Skagit County by Thursday had two confirmed cases of COVID-19, but hospital infection preventionist Gary Preston said it’s only a matter of time before another person tests positive.
“I have to say that we anticipated that we would see more,” Preston told the hospital commissioners Wednesday, March 11. “And we will.”
More specific information about the location of patients who test positive is not being released. Once the first patient is identified in a county, as happened this week with Skagit County, that entire county adopts certain protocols under guidance of public health officials.
As of Thursday evening, Washington had 457 positive cases of COVID-19, almost 90 more than the previous day, and 31 related deaths. The mortality rate worldwide is close to 3 percent, Preston said.
Cases are being reported in higher numbers now because states are able to process tests on their own instead of sending them to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Preston said. More tests are also becoming available.
Hospital leadership meets every day in an incident command center to make sure they are up-to-date on the virus situation, which is rapidly changing.
The hospital is changing the way it does things to keep people safe, Hall said. As far as the staff knows, they have not yet treated anyone who has later tested positive for COVID-19.
The hospital, meanwhile, is canceling all nonessential programs around high-risk groups, such as support groups and education programs. Online options are being explored. Any classes that must continue will have a screening process for anyone attending, he said.
The hospital is also grappling with the financial impact of the virus, Hall said. People are canceling appointments and avoiding the hospital. That means less money coming in, which will affect the hospital’s bottom line.
The hospital is looking at some different options, including telemedicine, that would allow some patients to see their doctors from home, meaning they can still keep their appointment without coming into the building.
They are also looking at the idea of mobile screening sites so that community members can be screened without coming into the hospital, especially if they are showing symptoms.
Island Hospital is monitoring supplies closely, he said. That includes masks and other health care-related items that are experiencing shortages across the country.
“We are keeping a strict monitoring system on our inventory,” Hall said.