Regional efforts underway to combat COVID-19


BUCKHANNON — Hospitals and health clinics throughout the region are working diligently to combat the coronavirus, by changing regulations, hosting drive-thru test clinics and operating triage phone lines. Sue McKisic, Nurse Director at Upshur-Buckhannon Health Department, assured that the local office is following the CDC and State guidelines for testing. This entails a brief phone call in order to collect information, which will then be submitted to the state to determine eligibility. McKisic explained if the person does not meet the criteria based on the information sheet, they will not be tested.

For instance, if persons have not traveled outside of the country to high-risk areas, they will not be considered high risk. In regard to traveling to hot spots within the United States, such as New York City, McKisic explained that it is dependent on how long a person was there and if they came into contact with someone that was positive for COVID-19. Officials strongly encourage people to call their local health department, their healthcare providers, or St. Joseph’s Hospital prior to coming in, to decrease the potential of spreading the virus/infection. The Upshur-Buckhannon Health Department is not doing testing within their office, but instead referring to St. Joseph’s. McKisic said nobody has been tested in Upshur County to her knowledge, as of Wednesday.

The Lewis County Health Department is not currently taking walk-ins either, but strongly encourages community members to call them, their local healthcare provider or local hospital, prior to seeking testing or treatment.  

Mon Health CEO David Goldberg gave the following statement regarding the COVID-19 virus: “Mon Health System continues to monitor the spread of COVID-19. We are working in coordination with our county health departments, WVU Medicine and other healthcare providers, to ensure consistency and coordination for the communities we serve. We are prepared with screening pathways in place and have established a call line for patients who may be experiencing respiratory symptoms.” Senior Vice President of Clinical Affairs of Mon Health System Dr. Gregory Nelcamp also commented, “We are following CDC guidelines and the need to protect our patients. The current recommendation from the CDC to limit visitors, both in hospitals and long-term care facilities, to limit the risk of introducing any infectious agents into our facilities.”  

Like other healthcare systems, Mon Health System advises people to not walk-in to health departments, emergency departments, urgent care or any other healthcare facility to seek testing or treatment, but instead contact their Patient Outreach Line at (304) 285-3798 to set up a time and location to be evaluated. To gather further information, you can also contact the WV DHHR Coronavirus Hotline at 1-800-887-4304. People can also visit the CDC website at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/index.html.

Starting at 10 a.m. on March 18, WVU Medicine established five drive-through collection points in West Virginia to collect specimens from pre-screened patients to test for COVID-19, according to the WVU Medicine website. These designated points will be in Morgantown, Bridgeport, Parkersburg, Wheeling and Martinsburg. They will be operating seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The testing itself will be supported by Quest Diagnostics and LabCorp, which will process the specimens that WVU Medicine collects from patients. The results will not be available to the patient for three to four days. Just like everywhere else, they are following the CDC guidelines and people must meet the criteria established by the CDC to receive testing.

VP of Public Relations at St. Joseph’s Hospital Lisa Wharton explained that St. Joseph’s has established a yellow triage tent outside of their Emergency Department. The triage tent will be used to screen patients to send them to the appropriate area for treatment, following WV DHHR screening guidelines and to filter patients coming into the ER and Prompt Care. Beginning today, March 19, the tent will be open for triage from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., staffed Monday through Friday. During triage, the nurse will determine where the patient will be best directed within the hospital to avoid unnecessary travel within the facility.

Wharton explained, “A lot of times people come through the ER to do lab work, get X-Rays, etc.” and it will restrict things like that, so the new process is ultimately to ensure safety. Wharton also stated that the facility would be prepared to situate someone if they had COVID-19. They are still working on their emergency plan but are taking steps day-by-day to ensure safety in the community and the facility. According to a press release on March 17, “St. Joseph’s Hospital announced that they have set up a Nurse Triage Phone Line to serve patients who have questions about illnesses, respiratory symptoms or are concerned about infection from the Coronavirus. The phone number is (304) 473-2161.”   

In another press release from WVU Medicine, St. Joseph’s Hospital enforced the following restrictions for visiting: “Visitors to the second floor are limited to one adult at a time and they must register at the desk in the main lobby. For the OB department, visitors will be limited to one adult of the mother’s choice during her length of hospitalization. They must wear a bracelet issued by the OB department. No visitors are permitted in the Nursing Care Facility with the exception of those with approved medically necessary status. Children under the age of 16 are not permitted to visit.” 

There was no confirmation given yet as to whether drive-thru clinics will be established in Upshur County. “Our intent is to meet the needs of our community. If the number of patients warrants and we receive the necessary testing supplies, we will consider setting up a drive-by clinic,” Wharton said. Staff who are ill for various reasons, will be instructed to say home, as per our infection control policy.

Once again, if you are having respiratory symptoms, call the WVU Medicine COVID-19 Triage Line at (304) 598-6000 and select option 4, St. Joseph’s Nurse Triage Line at (304) 473-2161, Mon Health System’s Patient Outreach Line at (304) 285-3798, your local care provider or hospital before physically entering a facility to avoid the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The Upshur-Buckhannon Health Department can be contacted at (304) 472-2810 and the Lewis County Health Department at (304) 269-8218. 

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