BY NANCY GAGNET | MIRROR REPORTER — St. Luke’s Hospital is testing more patients, initiating new visitor guidelines and accepting donations of hand-sewn masks in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A number of patients have been tested and are under investigation, but results are not yet known, according to Jill Trosin, St. Luke’s Hospital vice president of nursing care and chief nursing officer.
“I can’t give you the exact number, and the results are not coming back quickly,” she said.
St. Luke’s works in conjunction with the Depart-ment of Health and other hospitals in following testing protocol, which means that EMS, fire, police, hospital employees and patients have tests available if needed, but testing is limited for outpatient individuals at this time. In addition, everyone entering the hospital is screened and anyone who meets positive screening criteria is listed as a “person under investigation” with proper testing protocol administered, said Cheryl Herr, manager of the emergency department and director of disaster preparedness.
“If they are coming in the hospital by EMS, my understanding is that there will be better screening at dispatch for the first responder, because everybody has their chain of command and we know right away if there is concern and they should know on their end if they are transporting somebody that is suspect,” she said.
Earlier this month, three Springfield firefighters un-knowingly transported to St. Luke’s a patient who later died and was subsequently diagnosed with the COVID-19 virus. Better communication strategies have since been implemented to protect first responders.
The hospital has also implemented new visitor rules. The number of visitors allowed has been reduced and any visitor must be at least 18 years of age and follow strict handwashing procedures before and after visiting a patient. They will also be screened at the hospital entrance for fever and respiratory symptoms before being allowed to visit.
Hospital supplies and resources are monitored daily and all hospitals, including St. Luke’s, are preparing for depleting supplies because the demand is greater than normal.
“We are in conservation method, so we are looking at how to conserve, especially the masks,” Herr said.
The hospital is currently accepting donations of masks, either purchased or hand-sewn.
“We have a good supply right now, but we anticipate the amount of use will remain high and we have to keep looking ahead to make sure that we can have enough supply,” Herr said. “We do appreciate the community for their support.”
Following state guidelines that stipulate either a cancelation or reduction in the number of non-essential surgeries and procedures at this time, St. Luke’s has also had to either reduce staff or reallocate staff to other areas in the hospital.
According to the Ohio Department of Health, the number of COVID-19 cases could peak between the months of April and May and all hospitals in the area, including St. Luke’s, are preparing for a surge in the number of patients needing treatment.
“The areas in the hospital that aren’t being used because of non-essential procedures then become very important to us when we see the surge, so we are ready,” Herr said.
Donated masks may be dropped off at a pink box at the outpatient center en-trance driveway No. 3.