Pioneer Memorial Hospital talks COVID-19 public safety

Dawn Rye | Writer
drye@ncppub.com

On Friday, March 20 the Turner County commissioners made a motion to continue to keep the courthouse closed until Tuesday, April 7. With the decision, the county hopes to protect the public from the unintended spread of COVID-19.
Pioneer Memorial Hospital CEO Tom Richter said the hospital continues to accept patients in the hospital, nursing home and assisted living. He explained the facility is restricting visitors. He noted the nursing home is making exceptions to family members’ relatives are close to the end of life. Richter said all staff members are screened before starting their shift. He noted first their temperature is taken then are asked a series of questions. He explained when the patient’s call in they are also asked a series of questions to see if they have symptoms of COVID-19.
Richter said they have only sent off three COVID-19 tests and are still waiting for results. He noted the clinic volumes have reduced and they anticipate services like physical therapy will slow down, so they are looking at sharing employees in other areas of the facility. Richter explained they follow the www.CDC.gov, www.covid.sd.gov and www.coronovirus.gov to find the latest information and guidelines.
Highway Superintendent Kent Austin asked Richter since he has 14 employees, should he be screening them daily?
Richter believed it was a good idea to ask a series of health questions. He noted most people know if they are running a fever and can self-report. He noted there is nothing wrong with asking questions to employees.
Austin said he recently discussed with the highway department if someone is feeling sick to stay home. He noted he did have one employee that felt he needed to stay home.
Chairman Lyle VanHove asked Richter if some employees that don’t want to come to work because of COVID-19?
Richter said two employees were somewhat concerned because they have risk factors. He explained there has been no changes and those employees feel comfortable working.
“This all changes on a daily basis. If we start having patients or residence in the facility with COVID-19 that will change things dramatically,” commented Richter.
He continued, “If we start seeing a significant increase in the community that is going to change everything.”
He noted during this meeting he said he has a greater significant health risk event occurring driving the Parker then from COVID-19. Richter said, for example, the situation could be different but COVID-19 is still around. He explained to be aware of your surroundings and know what is going on in the community.
“People just need to do some critical thinking and by doing that I think will keep things into perspective and not overreact and try to be realistic,” noted Richter.
Austin asked what will happen if COVID-19 goes community spread?
Richter explained the hospital has a certain amount of capacity in their facility. He noted most people will recover by self-quarantine and those that are at high risk and severe respiratory problems their staff can only do so much. Richter said once a patient requires a ventilator they will have to be referred to Sanford.
He explained for example when the health system is overrun a decision will have to be made to either give the ventilator to a 98-year-old vs. a 45-year-old person.
Austin said the only question he gets asked is if COVID-19 goes community spread would everything shut down?
Richter explained that Governor Kristi Noem was asked that but deferred that the government is following the CDC guidelines. He suspects that more businesses will be ordered to shut down.
Commissioner Mick Miller said people on social media sites with comments that people are overreacting and people that don’t take this seriously. How would you respond to that mindset to not take this seriously?
Richter explained the situation is very serious and depends on a resident’s location. He noted the level of seriousness is different. He said the level of seriousness currently is not the same as in New York. Richter noted every situation is different.
“I’m a proactive person, not a reactive person. And for us to be proactive right now will benefit everyone in the long run,” commented Commissioner Tony Ciampa.
Austin said he believes it’s better to overreact and nothing happens.
Richter noted at this point anything a person can do to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 is not overreacting.

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