HRMC Medical Providers Urge Residents to Stay Safe, Stay Home
March 27, 2020
HURON, SD – In the face of a pandemic that has disrupted life locally and around the world, the Huron healthcare community is urging residents to take social distancing and personal hygiene recommendations seriously.
Earlier this week, four members of Huron Regional Medical Center’s medical executive committee (MEC) sat down to share information and advice on how residents can help to flatten the curve and protect the Huron community from a rapid spike in COVID-19 cases needing hospitalization.
COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that can be spread from person-to-person. People with COVID-19 experience mild to severe respiratory illness with symptoms of fever, cough and shortness of breath.
While COVID-19 is a unique and dangerous new virus, the measures we can take to protect ourselves aren't extraordinary. But, failure to do so could have severe consequences for our community.
"The most important thing that we can do is practice social distancing; stay home, avoid unnecessary travel, and don't gather in groups," said Dr. Cy Haatvedt, who serves as secretary for the MEC and is a general surgeon with Tschetter & Hohm Clinic, "We also need to practice good hygiene. That means washing your hands frequently and cleaning contaminated surfaces, including doorknobs and tabletops with approved solutions frequently."
Our first instinct, when we feel sick, is to see the doctor. However, in this situation, Dr. Haatvedt says you need to call first rather than showing up unannounced.
"Please call and get advice if you have symptoms. We may advise you to stay home,” said Dr. Haatvedt. “If we feel that you need testing, we will advise you to do that, but please call before you go to the emergency room or clinics. This will help us to flatten the curve and avoid overwhelming our healthcare system unnecessarily."
Flattening the curve refers to measures aimed at preventing the number of COVID-19 cases from outpacing the ability of local healthcare facilities to respond. These steps, such as social distancing, can also help ensure adequate resources are available. Epidemiologists believe approximately 40-70% of the population will become infected with the coronavirus. Dr. Elyse Brock, who is chief of the medical staff and a self-confessed "math nerd," says the key to understanding the importance of flattening the curve is in the numbers.
"There are approximately 18,011 people in Beadle County. Let's say 55% of our population becomes infected. That would equate to around 10,000 people,” said Dr. Brock, OB/Gyn with the Women’s Wellness Center. “We know from hundreds of thousands of people who've been infected with this virus both in the United States and in other countries that approximately 20% will need hospitalization."
Twenty percent of 10,000 is 2000 people. Of that number, the present data indicates that 5% will need to be admitted to ICU and will require a ventilator. That would mean 500 people in Beadle County would require support from a machine to breathe.
"HRMC is a great hospital, but we are a small critical access hospital with four dedicated ICU rooms,” explained Dr. Brock. “If we have 500 people in our county who might need an ICU bed from this virus, not to mention other people who might need ICU care for other reasons, that number exceeds our ability to care for them. Flattening the curves hopefully helps slow the spread, so not too many people are sick at one time."
Dr. Alese Fox, who is an at-large member of the MEC and a family medicine with obstetrics physician at the HRMC Physicians Clinic says HRMC and our local clinics are also taking steps to avoid overtaxing our medical professionals and vital resources.
“[We are] trying to decrease the burden on our healthcare system by significantly limiting non-acute medical office visits and postponing elective surgeries,” said Dr. Fox. “Our goals are the same as yours. We want to preserve the health and well-being of our community by conserving our limited resources such as gowns, gloves and masks."
Although many of our daily activities have been limited, we may still need to leave our homes to pick up food or medications. Dr. Sara Castellanos, who also serves as an at-large MEC member and OB/Gyn with the Women’s Wellness Center, reminds community members that when it comes to obtaining these necessities, not to go in groups.
"It's important to designate one person [to make those trips]. The best advice I've heard is to presume that you and everyone around you has the virus,” said Dr. Castellanos. “Protect yourself and those around you by social distancing. Maintaining a distance of at least six feet between yourself and other people can decrease your risk of being infected."
The four providers remind residents to stay home, be patient and don't panic. The numbers can be frightening, but we can each do our part to help slow the spread of COVI-19.
"We are all in this together, "Dr. Haatvedt says. "And we will get through it together."
Up-to-date information about the COVID-19 illness and the hospital’s response is available on HRMC’s COVID-19 page.
Watch video tips online at HRMC's YouTube Channel. Listen to the WellOne Connection On-Air podcast from March 30, 2020 for more information from MEC members.
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