The 2020 Pandemic has shown health care organizations what it means to be responsive, resilient, and innovative. Being a small hospital with strong connections to the community, Fort HealthCare used its mission, vision and values to move through the last year. The resilience shown by everyone has been incredible and will be forever forged in our minds. Many of the activities that were created, re-designed and implemented proved to help the community feel more confident and safer during unsettling times. Leaders, staff, and partners stepped forward to assist with new workflows, processes and plans to ensure the safety of staff, patients, and the community.
Some of Fort HealthCare’s highlighted initiatives include:
- Created a testing task force and opened a seven-day per week testing drive-through at the hospital in tandem with a COVID triage call center to schedule, follow-up on results and provide guidance for isolation and quarantine. The testing task force was multidisciplinary and evolved into the testing and immunization task force by the end of 2020.
- Set up a grocery area and pharmacy for staff to order and pick-up within the hospital to avoid outside exposure.
- Developed a more robust telehealth and virtual visit program. Behavioral Health Management spearheaded this program due to clinic closures and was able to onboard all primary care and behavioral health providers.
- Continued to employ all staff members; no one within the organization was ever laid off. In fact, many were cross trained for the eventual surge.
- Created a labor pool that was sent out weekly for staff to sign up for shifts if needed.
- Paid staff if required to isolate or were ill with COVID.
- Hosted virtual celebrations and sent letters to staff from the CEO in support of masking, social distancing and hand hygiene. Provided encouragement at every turn of this process from administration and leadership.
- Offered free flu shots at local food pantries and local food pick up for seniors and community members in need.
- Transitioned the community health and wellness programs to all virtual events with no or low cost.
- Developed a pulse oximeter program by our emergency department (ED) providers and the local foundation. Equipment was purchased with foundation dollars and provided to patients leaving the ED for home use when not ill enough for admission. Patients were provided education and follow-up was done within 24 hours by a physician assistant from the ED. Of the 75 patients that received an oximeter, only one had to be admitted after going home.
- Increased the number of negative pressure rooms on the inpatient and obstetric (OB) units.
- Moved the total joint program (Hips and Knees) to the OB unit for admission and same day discharge. After demonstrating success here, we moved the ear, nose and throat overnight procedures to OB as well as they were on opposite days of the ortho cases.
- Developed a personal protective equipment (PPE) task force that continues to meet and be innovative in accessing and utilizing supplies. The reprocessing department re-processes hospital N-95 masks according to the CDC guidelines and were offered to local police departments, dentists, and private health clinics. Additionally, an industrial washer and dryer was purchased for reprocessing re-usable gowns.
- Created an electronic form to vet alternate PPE and learned about masks and the fear that the staff at the facility were feeling.
- Hired patient care associates to assist with laundry, transporting patients, stocking rooms, sitting with patients at risk for falls and suicide and as-needed for other duties.
- Created an intubation hood for persons under investigation (PUI) for COVID or positive COVID patients, which was an incredible tool for the surgery team.
- Allowed community members to provide homemade masks and hats. A clear plastic collection bin was placed outside an entrance where donations and notes of support and encouragement were placed.
- Obtained an alcohol, tobacco and firearms (ATF) license for alcohol to ensure our supplies were maintained and managed. Schools and businesses brought the hospital masks, alcohol hand gel, and other supplies/equipment that they felt we could use.
- Collaborated with the local foundation and the hospital to allow the community to open a local venue as a walking path Monday through Saturday for the community.
- Communicated transparently with our staff and the community related to PPE, testing supplies, status of beds and needs. The emergency operations center was opened by the county and the hospital participated weekly. Leadership meeting minutes were shared with all staff.
- Held a daily clinical huddle when the initial surge started in August. Clinical leaders, administration, chief of surgery, chief of emergency services and other ad hoc members met seven days a week and continue to meet. The huddles are collaborative, unified and allow for flexibility and innovation.
Fort HealthCare never lost sight of its mission, vision or values and continues to take care of each other as well as the community by “doing the right thing.: As Mike Wallace, CEO and president always says, “Never let perfect get in the way of good.” Fort HealthCare has been able to maintain its position as an independent community hospital alive and well in Fort Atkinson, Wis.