By CEO Charles Hall

Last week, Gov. Jay Inslee adjusted the directives to allow hospitals to ease restrictions on elective surgeries and outpatient services.

The initial proclamation guided health-care facilities to restrict services for those seeking non-urgent care unless it would cause harm past 90 days. The new guidelines focus on preventing potential harm to a patient’s health or well-being through a provider’s assessment, personal protective equipment (PPE) inventory levels and defined criteria including:

• Expected advancement of disease process.

• Continuing or worsening of significant or severe pain.

• Deterioration of the patient’s condition or overall health.

• Non-surgical alternatives are not available or appropriate per current standards of care.

• Increased loss of function and delay would be expected to result in a less positive ultimate medical or surgical outcome.

Though we have not seen a steady reduction in new positive COVID-19 patients within Skagit County, over the last several weeks Island Hospital has been developing a strategy to incrementally bring semi-urgent procedures and specialty services back to our community. Working through Gov. Inslee’s criteria, Island Hospital expects in the near future to:

• Begin performing “semi-urgent” surgical procedures regardless of type. Semi-urgent is defined as a condition potentially causing harm to a patient within 90 days.

• Reopen our specialty services such as pain management, urology, wound care, rehabilitation, etc.

• Bring back many of our staff to our clinical, ancillary and support departments to gradually reopen our entire line of services for our community, following state guidelines.

Of course, any urgent needs are taken care of immediately. Any procedures that are considered medically able to wait more than 90 days are considered “elective” at this time. We are being extremely careful to have adequate PPE supplies to protect our patients and staff members. We will continue to screen everyone entering our buildings and require masks, at least for the foreseeable future. With an expected return of COVID-19 infections expected by this fall, anything we can do to lessen exposure is crucial.

We continue to see COVID-19 cases hit Skagit County. Many believe it’s not an upswing in infection, but that more people are being tested. 

As of May 4, county Public Health reports 365 positive cases, with 13 deaths and 146 recoveries. Island Hospital is seeing a very slow rate of infection with 30 positive results from 699 tests, a 4.3% rate.

If you feel a need, please contact your health-care provider or utilize the mobile testing site at Skagit Valley College, facilitated by Skagit County Public Health and open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. No appointment is necessary, and more information can be found at www.skagitcounty.net or by calling 360-416-1500.

I want to reassure you that Island Hospital and the hospital campus clinics are safe places to receive care. Please take care of yourself and any ongoing issues, such as vaccinations and necessary provider visits.

Contact your clinic to see if a telemedicine visit will work for you; or visit the “Virtual Waiting Room” at www.islandhospital.org to request an appointment. Our Emergency Department and other hospital areas such as the Laboratory and Diagnostic Imaging are available to take care of any needs you may have.

It is extremely important that we continue to social distance and wear PPE while in public, especially inside publicly accessed buildings.

Through these tactics, we can protect ourselves, our community and people working in these facilities.

On a personal note, it’s very concerning to me that many in our community choose not to wear a mask when they are around others. This increases the risk of COVID-19 transmission to others and causes further exposure to our healthcare professionals. We need to do better.

I am asking our community to wear masks to protect both themselves and others. It is extremely important that grocery stores, hardware stores, gas stations and restaurants employees also wear masks to protect themselves, their customers and our health-care professionals. Our work is not done, and we need to continue to be proactive to weather this pandemic.

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