Over the past few weeks, we have begun to experience the initial phases of a pandemic as more patients receive positive test results from the COVID-19 virus.
I cannot express how important it is to follow the “stay-at-home” proclamation from Gov. Jay Inslee and the request from Mayor Laurie Gere to stay home and limit interactions with others to help slow the spread of the virus. I ask you to keep your family at home and limit trips out of your home. We do expect this crisis to worsen over the next several weeks and possibly months.
Over the past week and a half, we have had five positive tests on the hospital campus. Our most recent was an admitted patient whose test was positive and was then released Sunday to their family’s residence. We are grateful for the entire hospital and clinic team who have met the challenge of caring for those in need during these difficult times.
Two weeks ago, Island Hospital officially opened an Incident Command Center for daily briefings, updates and discussion of all activities related to the pandemic response. As recommended by the American College of Surgeons, the U.S. surgeon general and the Washington state Department of Health, we decided last week to cancel all elective surgeries and procedures to help prevent the spread of the virus.
In short time, our Incident Command team has carefully followed the guidance of the local health departments. We have focused on the following initiatives:
• Testing: At this time, we are experience a two to three business day turnaround on all tests. In coming weeks, we hope to receive advance test kits that allow for same-day results.
• Entrance Screening: We consolidated hospital entrance points and are screening all staff, providers, patients, visitors and vendors entering our buildings.
• Call Center: A triage call center was established to answer questions and guide care for those in need.
• Respiratory Clinic: A clinic has been opened at our M Avenue entrance to help screen and care for our community. When possible, many patients are being tested in their car to help protect others.
• Telemedicine: A platform has been identified and will be available for online care soon. Primary care and behavior health services will be the first implemented.
• Emergency Department: A respiratory care tent outside the Emergency Department will extend our capacity in caring for respiratory patients as well as separate those possibly infected from others.
• Mobile drive-through testing services will be available as testing kits become more readily available.
As our team studies the spread of this coronavirus throughout our region, we are standing up response services that will be sustainable for the months to come. We expect reduced services and cancellation of electives surgeries through May to help prevent the spread of the virus.
Reducing hospital and clinic services has had a negative impact on our ability to provide future care. Currently, our hospital has approximately 100 days of cash on hand. The true purpose of this cash is to help weather unexpected crises. With the significant reduction of services and revenue — about $3.8 million monthly — our limited cash reserves will be used as we continue to provide needed services. The depth to which we draw down these reserves can affect our ability to bring back future services.
In calculating the financial impact of this crisis, we must take significant measures to keep Island Hospital financially viable during and after this threat. We will do all we can to withstand this crisis. There are three strategies we are working through: Seeking federal/state/county relief, kicking off our hospital relief drive and reducing operational costs.
As we move through these unprecedented times, I am committed to keeping both our team and community updated on the services and capabilities of our healthcare system. I am extremely proud of the entire staff at Island Hospital who are dedicated in caring for each and every person in our community.
I am confident that we will be able to meet the challenges of this pandemic and take necessary steps to stand up our services once this threat has passed.