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DCH hospital outlines steps being taken to prepare for COVID-19

IRON MOUNTAIN — Dickinson County Healthcare System has detailed how it has prepared to handle an outbreak of COVID-19 should one develop in the region.

While Dickinson County has yet to report a case of the coronavirus that led Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Monday to order residents statewide to stay home unless part of an essential service, Chippewa County did announce Sunday it had a man presumed to have the virus, the first in the Upper Peninsula.

Tuesday, the Marquette County Health Department said it had its first confirmed positive COVID-19 case, an adult male with a history of recent domestic travel through international airports.

Lower Michigan as of Tuesday has seen nearly 1,800 people test positive for the virus, with at least 24 deaths.

Dickinson County Healthcare System officials said Tuesday it has sent 20 specimens to be tested for COVID-19. All five results returned so far have been negative, according to DCHS.

“The fluidity of the COVID-19 pandemic has challenged DCH to determine how best to prevent the spread of the disease and also identify the preparations necessary to treat those who may become afflicted,” DCHS said in a news release Monday, responding to earlier questions from The Daily News.

Some of the practices, procedures and initiatives DCHS has put in place for COVID-19 include:

— Four intensive care beds, with the capability to expand;

— Eight ventilators, with access to others if needed from other area resources, such as the Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center in Iron Mountain or the Region 8 Emergency Management Resource;

— Twenty respirators, with a large supply of reusable hoods;

— An “ample” supply of personal protective equipment, or PPE, for health care workers, such as gloves, masks and gowns, with more being obtained as a precautionary measure.

— The COVID-19 Committee — comprised of doctors, nurses and DCHS leadership — meets at DCHS seven days a week to plan and strategize;

— Daily “management safety huddles” on new developments related to all health concerns, including COVID-19;

— Daily “staffing huddles” on filling staffing voids and identifying areas in need of employee support;

— A daily conference call that includes the hospital’s Emergency Department, other Upper Peninsula hospitals and the Region 8 Emergency Management Resource to update data and compare resources and supplies;

— Using telehealth, or E-Visits, to provide health care that adheres to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations and the governor’s recent“stay home” orders. E- Visits are done by phone, Facetime or Skype and are set up just like a normal provider clinic appointment. Wellness visits, office visits and a larger variety of other medical services are available without the patient having to leave his or her home.

“Community support during the COVID-19 crisis has been strong,” DCHS said in the release, “and together we will see this situation through to its end.”

Aspirus preparations

In Iron County, Aspirus Iron River says long-term planning has happened across the Aspirus system for the COVID-19 pandemic, including adding beds to accommodate symptomatic patients.

“Teams are connecting with their peers in high activity locations in New York and Washington State to learn from their experiences,” officials for the Wausau, Wis.-based Aspirus said. “The state of readiness at Aspirus is good and we are closely managing supplies and implementing plans to prevent shortages.”

Anyone entering an Aspirus patient care location will be screened before being able to enter the building or reporting for work, Aspirus officials said.

Unless it’s an emergency, patients should call ahead. Those worried they might be infected by COVID-19 — with symptoms that may include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — should contact their physician by phone or call the Aspirus COVID-19 Call Center at 1-844-568-0701.

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