By Dan Colton
of The Beacon staff
The Sheboygan area’s two major healthcare providers announced plans to gradually reintroduce normal operations.
“We are continuously monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic, and with carefully-designed infection prevention protocols in place, we are able to resume many of our essential health care services and provide our patients the care they need in the safest way possible,” said Dr. Ashok Rai, president and CEO of Prevea Health, a partner with Hospital Sisters Health System St. Nicholas Hospital in Sheboygan, in a press release.
According to the May 6 release, precautions at St. Nicholas Hospital have been implemented to combat continuing dangers posed by the new coronavirus.
“All facilities in HSHS hospitals across Wisconsin – from our emergency rooms to our operating rooms – are safe and we are well-prepared to serve your health care needs.”
Leaders at the Aurora Health System, which includes the Aurora Sheboygan Memorial Medical Center, held a remote press conference May 7.
Some medical procedures that took a backseat at Aurora hospitals over the past weeks are now being encouraged.
“We know patients need to come into our facilities … for the many other health needs our patients, our communities, are having,” said Kelly Jo Golson, Aurora’s chief media officer, during the press conference. “…We want to encourage patients who need care to come in and receive that care.”
Golson said Aurora patients and visitors will be screened for a temperature. Employees will continue to wear masks; social distancing will be required, and appointments will be scheduled on a staggered basis.
Patients will also be able to access “virtual” waiting rooms and check-ins, according to Golson, so they can park in the parking lot and wait there instead of gathering in a lobby.
Golson said she expects the expansion of Aurora’s online appointment capabilities to continue even after the pandemic subsides.
Approximately 100,000 patient visits have been logged on the LiveWell app, according to Golson, which virtually connects patients to health care their professionals.
Aurora Chief Medical Officer Dr. Gary Struck said there is one silver lining to disruptions to normal hospital operations: Stress on hospitals caused by the coronavirus led Aurora to adopt new policies that Struck said will remain useful down the line.
“COVID forced us to change how we care (for patients), but that’s not all bad,” Struck said. “…We developed capabilities now that we’re not going to let go.”
Personal protective equipment, or PPE, is now in adequate supply at the health system, Struck said, a boon to staving off the spread of COVID-19 as surgeries and other procedures are resumed.
“We have the PPE we need, but this continues to be an area of focus,” Struck said. “…People will need to take precautions for a long time.”
Mary Beth Kingston, chief nursing officer at Aurora, said each hospital site will be addressed on a case-by-case basis to determine which procedures will be made available, and when they will be made available.
“This is not going to be a flip of the switch,” Kingston said. “This reactivation is going to be a slow turning of the dial.”
If you have symptoms of the new coronavirus, including elevated temperature, persistent cough, fatigue, body aches and loss of taste and smell, call your health care provider for further instruction before going to the hospital.