On February 11, 2020 the World Health Organization announced an official name for the disease that is causing the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak, first identified in Wuhan, China. The name of this disease is coronavirus disease 2019, abbreviated as COVID-19. Not previously seen in humans, this new disease is highly transmissible and seems to spread primarily via a respiratory route.
With the news of this outbreak, Beauregard Health System assembled an Incident Command Team to begin preparation for a possible local outbreak. From the very first meetings, the team followed daily advisement of the CDC to ensure all new recommendations were being followed and that up-to-date information was available to staff. Shortly following, the Health System began to hold daily safety huddles to ensure appropriate communication across all departments.
By the beginning of March, the Health System had prepared a contingency budget, increased supplies of critical items and established conservation measures to ensure appropriate PPE (personal protective equipment) availability. The Health System also established environmental controls in the Emergency Department waiting room that separated patients who presented with respiratory symptoms from those who did not, provided refresher training to clinical staff on donning and doffing of gowns, gloves and facemasks, established additional cleaning protocols and purchased additional equipment to track germs. Also, early on, in an abundance of caution, the Health System closed the cafeteria, fitness center and gift shop to the public and restricted entry into the hospital by closing the front entrance on Pine Street.
As the situation with the COVID-19 virus evolved, the Health System tightened safety measures for staff, patients, family members and visitors. With the Louisiana Department of Health mandate to prohibit all non-essential visitors, the Health System began screening all patients, family members and essential visitors upon entry. In an effort to provide the safest environment possible, the Health System revised the visitation policy to allow one designated family member per patient for Pediatric, Labor and Delivery and Hospice patients only, restricting all other patient visitors to zero, with the exception of end of life care. The Health System also set up a drive-through testing site for patients with a physician order, set up physician clinics for telemedicine services, set up virtual family visits for inpatients, maintained walk-in clinic hours (with screening precautions) from 1pm-9pm at 501 South Pine Street and continued to see patients 24 hours a day in the Emergency Department.
Again, with a mandate to restrict all elective medical and surgical procedures, the Health System intensified safety measures even further. Although a bit unpopular, the Health System instructed associates entering the building for work to stay for their entire shift without leaving, restricted food deliveries, restricted entry into the building to one location and required all individuals to wear masks in BHS public spaces.
The clinical and plant operations team worked together to create designated areas of the hospital for COVID-19 positive patients. With the age of the physical plant and limited negative pressure rooms, the teams collaborated to design and construct additional negative pressure rooms in preparation for a potential surge of COVID-19 positive patients. Additionally, the Health System prepared the 6th Street Clinic for use as an additional COVID-19 triage area in the event of a surge.
Although we are still facing a lot of uncertainties, Beauregard Health System remains diligent and ready to fulfill our calling of service to Beauregard and Vernon Parishes and surrounding communities. We cannot thank our community enough for the out-pouring of support and love. Patients, individuals, business owners and community groups have supported the health system through the COVID-19 Emergency Assistance Fund, through donations of personal protective equipment, and through providing meals for the staff working very long hours throughout the health system. Furthermore, the spiritual support received from the community has been incredibly inspiring. From daily prayers over the loud speaker, to daily devotions and times of reflection, to parking lot rallies and more. We truly live in a very special community.
“On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I would like to express our sincere appreciation for the preparation, commitment and passion exhibited by all who work at our hospital,” said David O’Neal, Chairman of the Board, West Louisiana Health Services, Inc. “The dedication of the staff at Beauregard Health System has been relentless and unwavering during this unprecedented time,” said Bud Barrow, CEO. “I am certain that we are prepared to serve the community with confidence and compassion through this pandemic, into our new normal and well into the future.”