Coronavirus and COVID-19 frequently asked questions

Wallowa Memorial Hospital staff and administration have provided answers to the most frequently asked questions about our readiness for COVID-19

1. Do we have test kits? If so, how many.

We do not have test kits in house and do not anticipate getting any. We have the ability to send tests to both commercial and state labs at provider discretion.

2. How many people have been tested here? Are they the new test kits that provide rapid diagnosis or are we still waiting 5 days for results?

We have currently sent out 14 tests and have received 8 negative results. Results take between 3-10 days depending on the quantity being received by the lab. Our message for a sick patient showing symptoms is the same with a positive test result or not. Contact your primary care provider, stay home unless you need medical attention, call first when seeking medical attention, practice good hygiene, clean surfaces often, and stay away from others in your home as much as possible.

3. How’s our Personal protection equipment PPE supply? Local people are sewing up masks. Are they to hospital standards? Has the hospital provided standards to them? What about other PPE supplies? Gloves, face shields, etc.

We are currently monitoring our PPE supply very closely. People have been making and donating masks. Homemade masks are not optimal as they do not filter the way specific medical masks do. Our plan is to utilize these homemade masks over the top of our regular masks so we can wash the cloth masks and reuse the medical grade masks if and when we get into a dire situation. We are NOT currently there. Celeste Bauck with the Quilting Guild has been our contact for cloth masks. We ask that if anyone is interested in sewing masks they contact her. Her phone # is: 541-426-3900.

At the present time, we cannot get any surgical-grade screen material for making surgical masks, These masks require that they be made to a specific pattern from a specific set of materials to meet requirements for protection from viruses. If and when that material becomes available it may be possible to make surgical masks here. We are working with the Quilting Guild on that.

The supply chain is one of the great unknowns. We are currently monitoring all of our PPE, ordering and stock piling as inventory allows. We are not currently anticipating an issue regarding gowns and gloves but are planning for a worse case scenario. The community has been very generous with donating gloves and gowns that they have. We are stockpiling these donations and if we do not utilize them we will return the items once the supply chain rights itself. This is something we are monitoring closely multiple times a day.

4. Do we have ventilators? If so how many? Are we getting any more? If so when? If not, why not ? OR: Are people who need to be on ventilators transported to a larger hospital: Boise, Portland, etc. We currently have 4 ventilators and have requested 6 more from the state. Standard transfer protocols are currently still in place which includes transferring patients needing ventilation to a critical care facility elsewhere that has an ICU. The request for additional ventilators is in precaution in case we must halt the transfer of cases needing ICU-level care to other hospitals.

5. How many hospital beds do we have that are ready for/reserved for COVID-19 patients? We are a 25 bed critical access hospital. All of our beds/rooms have the ability to become an isolation room in the event we get multiple COVID patients at the same time. We also do have a surge plan in place (as mentioned in last week’s article) that allows us to double that number by utilizing the entire hospital campus. The surge plan is designed to keep infectious patients quarantined from patients seeking care for other reasons.

6. What’s the current prediction ranges for how many cases we may see here, (or how many small rural communities may experience) and how serious they may become? Unfortunately we do not have those answers. No one does. This is exactly why we are hoping for the best and preparing for an absolute worse-case scenario.

7. Are there any other potentially serious contagious illnesses circulating in Wallowa County at the present time?

Yes. Notably, Influenza type A is another viral disease that has infected a number of Wallowa County residents. Its symptoms are similar to COVID-19, including a dry cough, headache, fatigue, and a fever over 100.4F. If you are experiencing these symptoms, call your healthcare provider. We have tests for Influenza A that can confirm or rule out that disease.

8. Will Wallowa County be getting any funds from the $2 trillion aid package just passed and signed?

With the signing of the Coronavirus Aid Bill there is money allocated to health care, specifically trying to close the gap of revenue lost during these uncertain times. There is an application process with the federal government for these funds and Senator Wyden will be advocating on behalf of Oregon to help get through the application process on a federal level.

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