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Stop the Spread

We all have questions about COVID-19, and new ones arise daily. T&S spoke with Dr. Nicholas Holekamp, chief medical officer at Ranken Jordan Pediatric Bridge Hospital, for insight into how the virus is impacting health care and what the community can do. 

With new info coming out every day, how do you determine what advice to share?
At Ranken Jordan, we have a command center where we all contribute information we have gathered. That way we can determine what is reliable and what needs to be acted on. It’s a constantly changing environment, so we have frequent updates and consistent communication with our team and the community.

Do you have recommendations for how people can deal with all of the information available?
Like a lot of people, I can get a little overwhelmed by everything. It’s important to pay attention to the consistent messages. Right now, it’s key to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, practice social distancing and have proper hand hygiene after every encounter.

Are there any virus-related myths or false information you would like to dispel?
Overall, the most concerning thing is there are people who don’t appreciate how important it is to follow guidelines. It will help decrease the rush of patients that is going to hit our hospital system. Also, searching for cures and panaceas can cause a run on medications that are better suited for other purposes. There are no known interventions. If you have symptoms, take care of yourself at home in self-isolation unless you’re sick enough to warrant hospitalization. It’s the best thing you can do for your family and community.

Why is the stay-at-home order important for combating the spread of the virus?
It’s the only thing we can do. With COVID-19, there is so little else we have control over. There are no treatments, so once you get it, there isn’t much more to do but wait it out. Staying at home is the only method we have to decrease the spread.

What else can the community do to help?
People want to be helpful, but it’s tricky right now. We had to ask our volunteers to stay home to limit traffic in the hospital. It’s counterintuitive to human nature, but social distancing is the best way you can benefit everyone. It supports health care workers and first responders who are on the front lines, and it keeps everyone else safe. Who doesn’t have an elderly family member they are worried about? You want to get close and hug them, but it’s the opposite of what they need right now.

What impact is the new coronavirus having on hospitals?
Ranken Jordan is a little bit of a special case, but we are tuned into what is happening at other hospitals. I have a daily conference call with representations from children’s hospitals across the state. The good news is that pediatrics is somewhat isolated from COVID-19, but these hospitals are in systems that are struggling in a number of ways. There are shortages of personal protective equipment, beds, ventilators and people to provide intensive care support for the sickest patients.

What are some of the measures being taken to keep patients safe?
Like most hospitals,we have severely limited the flow of people in and out of the building. There are no volunteers, and our policy is one family member or caregiver per patient per day. All employees and visitors who come into the hospital are screened for risk of having the virus and have their temperatures taken. We also require everyone who comes into contact with patients towear masks.

How are hospitals in the area working together during the crisis?
One of the silver linings is that this is universal. Hospitals are recognizing that we have to be on the same team despite system differences or political issues. We’re seeing collaboration and cooperation among health care professionals even though everyone is struggling with supplies. We all have to meet our individual needs, but we’re already having conversations about sharing staff and managing patients together. Since adult hospitals are facing the most challenges, pediatric hospitals are making space and accommodations to take potential overflow. A good analogy is the hospital ships in New York and California. Ranken Jordan can offer patients without COVID-19 a safe space for treatment.

Do you think the current situation will lead to lasting changes in health care?
I think there certainly will be changes related to preparedness for this kind of international crisis. Moving forward, the focus is going to be on emergency response for hospital systems and supply chains to make sure there is enough equipment. It also could have broader implications regarding how we care for the most vulnerable patients.

Pictured: Dr. Nicholas Holekamp

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