Open Letter from Tom Keller, President and CEO, Ozarks Healthcare:
As a result of the uniqueness of this public health situation and its ever-evolving status, I am writing to inform you as to the most recent activities and efforts underway at Ozarks Healthcare related to the current novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The safety and security of our patients, residents, visitors, and co-workers are at all times, our highest priority. Ozarks Healthcare is committed to keeping our patients, visitors, co-workers, and communities informed about the steps we are taking concerning COVID-19.
Ozarks Healthcare has been and will continue to closely monitor the on-going situation and follow the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), the Missouri Department of Health (MDOH) and working in close partnership with Howell County Health Department, our medical staff and other community partners.
Over the past six months, Ozarks Healthcare has enacted many additional steps to help keep our patients, co-workers, and facilities safe. Here are just some of the most recent measures that I would like to address that Ozarks Healthcare is currently taking:
- Emergency Department Triage: Upon entering the Emergency Department (ED) entrance our triage nurses screen and mask everyone. If you are a known positive COVID-19 case, you will be ushered to our negative pressure sealed waiting room, where you will wait to be seen for treatment in one of our negative pressure ED exam rooms used only for COVID positive patients. No visitors are allowed to accompany these positive patients. If you are suspected of a possible COVID positive diagnosis, you are immediately brought to one of the negative pressure ED rooms for examination and testing.
- Viral Intensive Care Unit (VICU): In the hospital, confirmed COVID positive patients stay and are treated in the VICU, regardless of how critical they are, which includes 11 beds. To put that into perspective when factoring in our medical ICU, Ozarks Healthcare has a higher ratio of ICU beds to residents per capita vs. the state average (39.9 vs. 27.3).
- OB/Gyn Patients: OB patients that are delivering at Ozarks Healthcare are allowed a single support person during their inpatient stay. Both patient and support person will be pre-screened and masked for the duration of their stay. The patient’s support person will not be able to leave and return on the same day.
- Surgical Patients: All surgical patients will be screened and tested for COVID-19 prior to surgery. Patients with a positive result will be rescheduled.
- Pharmaceuticals: Although several therapeutic agents continue to be evaluated for the treatment of COVID-19, the anti-viral drug Remdesivir had shown some initial success in shortening recovery time. Ozarks Healthcare is employing this drug when indicated and has consistently maintained an adequate supply.
- Patient transfers: While we do our best to treat our patients at our facility, there will be cases deemed necessary to transfer to another facility. Whether those facilities accept our transfer patients is entirely dependant on their current capacity or resources on any given day. If the situation arises that a particular facility cannot accommodate our patients, we have many alternative facilities that we may call upon as needed.
- Home Health Care: For our recovering COVID-19 patients that are transitioning from the acute hospital setting to their home, we maintain comprehensive home health services for their care. Along with support from H.O.M.E., we are able to provide increased nursing oversight and medical equipment in the home setting to best assist our patients in a safe and comfortable recovery.
- COVID hotline: As the community spread of the virus has increased, we have upgraded our hotline with additional staff and extended hours, now available seven days a week, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. To find out how you can be tested with the most accurate testing methods available through our convenient drive-through after a consultation with a provider please call our hotline at 417-505-7120
- COVID drive-thru testing: Ozarks Healthcare’s Drive-Thru testing site is located at our West Plains Family Medicine clinic located at 181 Kentucky Avenue, Highland Park Suite 100. It is open seven days a week, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Ozarks Healthcare also offers testing at the rural clinics in the 8-county service area.
- COVID testing methods: Ozarks Healthcare employs diagnostic testing methods, also referred to as viral or molecular testing, as opposed to an antibody (serology) test. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), molecular tests detect whether genetic material is present indicating an active coronavirus infection. Antibody tests detect whether antibodies have developed in a patient’s immune system, but should not be used to confirm whether an active infection is present.
- #MaskUpOzarks: We encourage community members, especially local businesses and service organizations to join and/or continue to support the #MaskUpOzarks community service campaign. It was created and is managed by a regional coalition of organizations working together to support our area’s health by encouraging positive masking and hygiene efforts throughout our community.
- Elevated Cleaning Measures: We have heightened and increased the frequency of cleaning our public areas using only hospital-grade disinfectants - paying particular attention to any high touch point areas. We are substantially increasing the quantity of hand sanitizer devices throughout all sites. We are continually adding additional cleaning staff to accomplish this goal.
- COVID Vaccination Center: Ozarks Healthcare has begun preparations to qualify as a COVID-19 vaccination center.
- COVID-19 Plasma Collection: Ozarks Healthcare encourages all recovered COVID-19 patients to contact the Community Blood Center of the Ozarks (CBCO) to donate plasma. Visit www.cbco.org/covid19 to learn how.
We will continue to work with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services to help us remain prepared. We plan to continue to track, prepare, and implement the best practices to keep our communities safe as we can.
How we overcome this is through unified community efforts. We must rely on the compassion and assistance of everyone to please follow the guidelines set in place to help contain this epidemic and take this situation seriously. We would implore you to remain consistent in your efforts in protecting yourself, your loved ones, and especially those most susceptible in our communities. To always keep them in mind as we continue with the new normal for the foreseeable future.
Ozarks Healthcare continues to operate to meet the needs of the communities we have the honor of serving. The proactive steps we put in place are to limit the possible transmission of COVID-19 and other viruses and we will continue to review and update them as warranted and at the direction of state and federal authorities. Please be assured that Ozarks Healthcare will continue to provide care to all who seek treatment at our facilities.
If you have questions about exposure or symptoms, please call the Ozarks Healthcare COVID-19 hotline at 417-505-7120 to be screened before going to the emergency department.
The events that have occurred in our community and around the world are unprecedented, and for many, it is a time of uncertainty. We hope that you continue to lean on us at Ozarks Healthcare for the prudent advice and reassurance that will help you and your loved ones weather this storm. Ozarks Healthcare is committed to keeping our patients, employees, and communities safe.
Thank you for your continued support and for your continued kindness and compassion to your friends and neighbors. I also want to thank all of you who wear a mask and socially distance. You have made a difference.
President & CEO
Ozarks Medical Center