As Central Oregon’s four hospitals gear up for the expected influx of COVID-19 cases, they’re telling anyone who needs medical treatment to call first, particularly those employees seeking routine screenings for employment.
St. Charles Health System announced Wednesday it erected surge tents outside the Bend South Immediate Care and La Pine Immediate Care facilities to care for symptomatic patients. The St. Charles Medical Group has already set up surge tents outside the Bend East Family Care Clinic and the Redmond Family Care Clinic in response to patient volume, according to the health system’s statement.
“Given the highly infectious nature of this virus, we are trying to limit any exposures and interactions between patients and providers by delivering services at curbside or remotely whenever possible,” Dr. Robert Ross, medical director for St. Charles Medical Group, said in a prepared statement. “That means registering, getting a history and updating information in advance over the phone, then determining what interaction is absolutely necessary.”
St. Charles also has set up ways for patients to call, video chat or visit electronically through the MyChart portal.
At Mosaic Medical, like other facilities, the phones have been ringing off the hook with patients seeking information about COVID-19. Nearly half the calls are from employees who are being told to get tested for COVID-19 or receive clearance notes from physicians by their employers, said Elaine Knobbs-Seasholtz, Mosaic Medical strategy and development director.
“Some employers are additionally requesting proof of negative COVID-19 test results, which is not realistic with current testing capabilities,” Knobbs-Seasholtz said. “The biggest message is that employers need to follow the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidance, which has extensive information on their webpages.”
The Bend Chamber of Commerce, responding to health providers concerns, put out a message that businesses should not request sick employees to get tested for the virus.
“Sending employees for routine clearances will overtax our healthcare system and increase people’s exposure (to COVID-19), “ said Katy Brooks, Bend Chamber of Commerce CEO.
To help employers navigate the health care guidelines and to provide resources, the chamber created a website called, CentralOregonSOS.com.
Health professionals recommend that employers encourage people to stay home if they are sick. If their employees need medical care, they should start by calling their primary care provider. But asking for proof that an employee tests negative for COVID-19 “is not feasible right now due to testing capacity,” according to a statement by Ben Hemson, city of Bend business advocate in an online posting.
The decision not to test everyone is in part due to a national shortage of test supplies, according to St. Charles officials.
“Right now, we don’t have enough tests for everyone in the community,” said Joe Sluka, St. Charles Health System CEO during Tuesday’s webinar press conference. “We are actively working to secure more testing supplies.”
Currently the only patients being tested for the coronavirus are those with symptoms of fever, cough, difficulty breathing, underlying health conditions and who are hospitalized.