After weeks preparing for a potential influx of individuals with COVID-19, known as the coronavirus, St. Bernards Healthcare has unveiled its emergency response plan to combat the disease. St. Bernards Medical Center Vice President of Medical Affairs Dr. Kasey Holder said the organization dedicated resources early on for a COVID-19 team to implement a specific plan preparing for these patients.
“Procedures are in place to facilitate early identification of patients at risk for COVID-19 so they can receive prompt treatment and quickly be isolated from other patients and visitors to reduce the risk of transmission,” Holder said. When patients first enter a St. Bernards facility, they receive screening at all entry points, examining travel history and signs or symptoms of respiratory illness.
These symptoms may include fever, shortness of breath, and coughing. In addition, St. Bernards discusses COVID-19 updates in its daily safety huddle meetings and weekly disaster preparedness meetings. Holder said frequent and open communication internally and externally proves vital to ensure a well-coordinated response.
“We are communicating regularly with the Arkansas Department of Health and staying up-to-date with Centers for Disease Control alerts and recommendations to ensure we are prepared to provide the safest environment for our patients and healthcare providers,” she said.
Rather than treatment, however, Holder said she still recommended good hygiene as the best infection prevention measures.
“As with other respiratory infections like COVID-19, the best way to protect yourself and those around you from illness is to practice good hygiene,” she said. “Wash your hands frequently, avoid touching your face, cough and sneeze into your elbow or a tissue, avoid close contact with sick people, and stay home if you are sick.”
In addition to in-house measures, St. Bernards is offering its virtual care service, St. Bernards Go, free of charge to patients experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. St. Bernards Healthcare Vice President of Physician Services John Lieblong said the organization made the decision in an effort to prevent public exposure of the disease.
“When individuals open the St. Bernards Go app or log on through a computer, they’ll see a questionnaire related to COVID-19 symptoms,” Lieblong said. “If their answers align with COVID19 symptoms, they will receive a code to have their virtual visit at no charge.”
Lieblong said during the virtual visit with a St. Bernards medical professional, patients will receive instructions where to go to receive medical attention and COVID-19 testing.
St. Bernards Go normally requires a $49 fee with or without insurance, but the fee is waived with a code provided to patients with COVID-19 symptoms. Patients with other illnesses will still pay the normal $49 fee. Should they, however, need additional care at a St. Bernards Urgent Care facility, they will only pay for their Urgent Care visit.
Patients may download the St. Bernards Go app by searching for “St. Bernards Go” through the App Store for iOS devices or the Google Play Store for Android devices. Once the app is downloaded and opened, patients may register for virtual visits. In addition, all St. Bernards Go services are available through a computer equipped with a webcam and microphone at stbernardsgo.com. The service’s normal operating hours are Monday-Friday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m.