Hospital working daily to meet community needs

Marlena Sloss/The Herald
A sign points to Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center's alternative screening site at 695 W. Second St. in Jasper. The site is for patients who do not require emergency department services, but who have symptoms of fever, cough and respiratory congestion or shortness of breath.


JASPER — Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center has a plan for COVID-19, and has been working daily to meet the community’s health care needs during the pandemic, according to hospital spokesperson Melanie Powell.

The Jasper hospital has 137 licensed beds, 26 of those for critical care. It also has “a standard number” of ventilators that are utilized in Critical Care Services, Powell said.

“However, there are multiple avenues to increase our ventilator capacity, if needed,” she added.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a ventilator is a machine that helps a person breathe “by giving oxygen through a tube placed in a patient’s mouth or nose, or through a hole in the front of the neck.” If a COVID-19 patient’s respiratory symptoms are severe enough, they may require hospitalization and a ventilator to help lung function during the illness.

Though, according to the CDC, “most people with COVID-19 have mild illness and are able to recover at home without medical care.” Common symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath.

If you think you have the novel coronavirus, the agency advises you to not leave your home, except to get medical care, and “be sure to get care if you have trouble breathing, or have any other emergency warning signs, or if you think it is an emergency.”

If you develop emergency warnings signs, the CDC urges you to get medical attention immediately. Emergency warning signs include, but are not limited to, trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or inability to awaken, and bluish lips or face.

To date, the Indiana State Department of Health reports one confirmed COVID-19 case in Dubois County. The Dubois County Health Department says it cannot provide the number of individuals tested in the county “since only positive tests are required to be reported to the health department.” Memorial has also declined to say how many individuals have been tested. The ISDH website reports 6,936 tests have been conducted statewide.

To prepare for outbreaks like the coronavirus, Memorial established a pandemic policy in February 2006.

“Because this was already in place, we immediately began working daily regarding our emergency response plan and a surge plan to prepare to meet the health care needs of our community,” Powell said. “In addition, we are working on a daily basis with all other regional hospitals within Incident Command: COVID-19 Regional Hospitals Bed Capacity and Nursing Group. This collaborative group identifies the availability of hospital beds, ventilators, negative airflow rooms, blood supply, visitation policies and personal protective equipment.”

She said the hospital is currently receiving allocations of personal protective equipment, and is working with vendors and local partners to get more. The hospital has also made changes within the organization to minimize the use of personal protective equipment, such as postponing elective and non-urgent surgeries and instituting a no-visitor policy.

“We have received donations of N95 masks from several companies and offices, and are grateful they are willing to donate to ensure we have the PPE to keep our physicians, staff and patients safe,” Powell said.

The hospital received its first shipment from the Strategic National Stockpile on Thursday. The stockpile is the nation’s largest supply of life-saving pharmaceuticals and medical supplies, and is used in public health emergencies when local supplies run out.

Staff adjustments have also been made at the hospital, including “staffing pools” to allow the hospital to plan for staffing needs in different areas.

“For example, due to postponing elective and non-urgent surgical procedures, we have been able to cross-train staff to work in other areas,” Powell said.

The hospital has also opened an alternative screening site at 695 W. Second St. in Jasper for patients who do not require emergency department services, but who have symptoms of fever, cough and respiratory congestion or shortness of breath. The site is open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, including weekends. Services at the site include testing for influenza A and B, strep throat, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and chest x-rays.

To be tested for COVID-19, a patient must meet criteria defined and authorized by the Indiana State Department of Health.

The state health department today reported 338 new, positive COVID-19 cases, bringing the statewide total to 981. There have been 24 deaths caused by the virus, and the state report indicated that 6,936 Hoosiers have been tested.

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