As we have soldiered through the COVID-19 emergency, residents of Chester County, PA have been reaching out to us with a wide variety of questions and concerns. Chester County Hospital President Mike Duncan recently addressed some of the most pressing questions facing the hospital and the commmunity. You can view this conversation in the video below or read the accompanying transcript.
Hi, I’m Mike Duncan, I’m the president of Chester County Hospital. Thank you for joining us for this COVID conversation. Thank you for many of you who submitted questions to us – we’re going to go through the top ten questions we've received and give you our perspective on what's on your minds.
I also want to thank you for those of you who've donated to us. We've had tens of thousands of gloves, masks and gowns, and we've had significant cash donations, food donations, Purell and all kinds of things so thank you very much for your support. And most of all I want to thank you for the great job the community is doing in maintaining social distancing because it really is bending the curve -- we'll talk about that a little bit later -- but thank you as a community for doing your part to have a little separation and not let this virus spread.
Now we're going to go into our top ten questions.
1:01 – How many COVID-19 patients has Chester County Hospital cared for?
The first question you’ve asked is how many COVID positive patients have we admitted to the hospital and the answer to that is about 60 since March 1, 2020. [As of April 16, 2020]
1:12 – Are COVID-19 patients from Chester County exclusively?
95% of the patients we’re seeing are from Chester County. There are a handful that are coming to us from outside our normal service area.
1:31 – Who qualifies for COVID-19 testing and where can they be tested?
I think most importantly if your doctor believes you're symptomatic and orders a test you can come to the hospital -- we have a place to perform those tests on your behalf and in response to your doctor.
Read more from the CDC about qualifications for COVID-19 Testing >>
1:53 – How long does it take to get your test results?
The test results -- if it's on an ambulatory basis it’s typically coming back in 3 to 4 days. If you have health insurance the tests are going to be covered. For our health care workers, if we think they have an exposure or think they have symptoms we're able to turn those tests around within the hospital same day because keeping our health care workers safe for themselves and for you is our highest priority. If you're an inpatient or you're in the emergency room and we think you are suspect for COVID we can take a rapid test which has a turnaround time of 45 minutes to an hour.
2:40 – How are the hospital’s staff being protected?
The first thing we do at any entrance is we do a temperature screen of everybody that comes into the facilities -- employees and others -- check for a general wellness test. And then we make sure everybody in the facility is wearing a mask. If an employee is in an environment where they have a higher risk of exposure [such as a] COVID positive patient -- maybe we're doing a procedure where it might aerosolize what's in their lungs and we have them in N95 masks, they have the face shield, they have a gown on to make sure that nothing that comes out is going to get on that employee.
3:29 – How is Chester County Hospital educating the community?
We collaborate with other agencies -- The Department of Health has the primary responsibility for education across the county. There are county government agencies that communicate with certain populations: Hispanic population, underserved, Medicaid population, etc. and then as a patient becomes part of our sphere -- they're one of our patients or a patient of one of our doctors, they've become an inpatient or emergency room patient -- we take a much more active role at that point. We do have a community education arm who are actively involved now in communicating some of these public health initiatives out into the community on a virtual basis.
4:21 – Will walk-up antibody testing be available?
Right now we're not offering that -- as you may have heard on the news a lot of people really think that's important. We'd love to be at a point where there's antibody testing that you can count on that shows that you're COVID negative, that you may have had it, that you have the antibodies present and that you're not going to infect anybody. We'd like to be able to offer that so people can go back to work with some confidence. The tests that are available now -- and the county is running some of those tests and we're working with them to try to validate that -- at this point the results of the tests don't lead to a clear clinical answer and so we're not offering those tests.
5:17 – When will elective surgeries begin to be rescheduled?
I think it's important to remember why we were asked to curtail elective surgeries. There are really two reasons. The most important of them is making sure we protect our health care workers. If someone who was COVID positive came in for a routine colonoscopy and they infected our nurses and doctors then those nurses and doctors wouldn't be available to take care of truly sick people, so we wanted to make sure we didn't have COVID positive people coming in for things that were not immediately necessary.
The second reason is -- as you've heard on the news -- finding enough masks and gloves and gowns, which we call PPE, personal protective equipment, to keep our health care workers safe is a challenge and so there was a concern about using PPE for elective cases. Our hope is that as we get into the month of May we'll begin to ramp those procedures back up and we'll work with our clinicians to prioritize which of those procedures should we avoid delaying any further. Obviously there's a need for them or we wouldn't be doing those procedures and so we'll assess which ones present more risk if they're delayed further and we'll do those first.
6:35 – When can volunteers return to their positions?
Well, we can't wait to have our volunteers back -- it's not the same here without you and so we'll welcome you back eagerly as soon as it's possible. In order for it to be possible the governor needs to lift the stay-at-home order and then you need to be comfortable that you're ready to come back to the hospital. If you have medical issues, I'd encourage you to stay away. The most important thing you can do for us is make sure you keep yourself healthy.
7:14 – Will the hospital be offering virtual services?
We've really expanded our virtual services as a result of COVID and that's one thing I expect will last long after COVID is gone. We are offering clinical services through telemedicine -- oncology and cardiology both continue to see new patients using telemedicine services. Our health and wellness area is doing increased classes online for diabetes, for heart failure, for nutrition and other services and will continue to expand those virtual services as time goes on.
As all of us work together to flatten the curve please follow these simple tips to keep you and all those you love well:
- Stay home
- Wash your hands often
- Avoid touching your face
- Cover your cough and sneeze
- Wear a mask in public
- Practice social distancing
Thank you all for joining me in our COVID conversation.