HUTCHINSON, Kan. (KWCH) Healthcare providers are learning, and they're learning fast the best practices to care for patients showing signs of COVID 19.
Reno County announced its third positive case of coronavirus Wednesday.
One of the providers in Reno County opened the door to a specific area where nurses and physicians can see patients with symptoms of COVID19 or illnesses that present with similar indicators.
"We just knew there would have to be a way to identify, quickly diagnose those cases that do arrive in our community," said Dr. Scott Pauly, M.D., a family physician at Hutchinson Clinic. "Quarantine those cases away from the many patients with chronic needs to whether this pandemic is here or not, need ongoing care."
Hutchinson Clinic made the move to transition its Women's Clinic into the Respiratory Rapid Response Clinic last week. It's a central place for the provider to see and treat patients with COVID 19 symptoms.
"I think it’s allowed us to be proactive and not be caught flat-footed. Time will only tell," said Dr. Pauly, M.D.
Hutchinson Clinic Family Physician Dr. Scott Pauly, M.D. said it's taking note of what providers across the country currently face.
Dr. Pauly, M.D. said, "It’s really born out of necessity as this pandemic has hit the coast and larger cities, we have the advantage of seeing what happens there first knowing that it’s coming this direction."
Patients are told to call ahead to 620-669-2500, and that will allow nurses to screen what appropriate action people should take.
"Anybody with respiratory complaints, whether it’s shortness of breath, cough, sore throat, especially if associated with a fever we have them to call in prior to arriving," said Dr. Pauly, M.D. "That allows us to give the phone calls to the nurses, who can adequately and correctly give them information about whether they should self-quarantine at home or whether their symptoms necessitate screening for the coronavirus, COVID 19, but also the many other illnesses we see this time of year."
In addition to providing medical care, Dr. Pauly, M.D. said another main focus of the rapid response clinic is to provide information and allow for the clinic to continue normal operations elsewhere on its campus.
"We started as a way to off-load our physicians who were seeing their regularly scheduled patients, as well as our walk-in care that handles anything from chest pain to fractures to migraines. This allowed us to shift that away from the main building," Dr. Pauly, M.D. said, "We quickly found there was more of a need than we thought."
Nurses are screening an average of 500 to 600 patients a day, and inside the clinic, it's seeing 50 to 60 patients. If patients meet the criteria, they are tested for COVID19 or other illnesses matching their symptoms.
"We don’t have anything extraordinary here." Dr. Pauly, M.D. said, "What we’re doing probably isn’t new. It’s probably being done elsewhere. We are following the CDC and KDHE."
There are other reasons for taking this step.
"We see this as something that’s coming and will move through our communities, but by identifying, diagnosing and quarantining those that either have the diagnosis or are in this limbo, where they get tested, and we have the three to four day period where we don’t know it’s positive or not," said Dr. Pauly, M.D. "The sooner we do all that, the less other individuals are put at risk via exposure. Our hope is to not only protect the community at large but also our providers."
There is a concern for healthcare providers. Not just from the illnesses, but what an increase in cases could mean for the finite resources hospitals and clinics have, including their staff.
"We’re a limited resource, much like the mask and gowns we have to wear, and also by slowing it we’re trying to off-load the pressures on our ER, in our hospital," said Dr. Pauly, M.D.
"At this time, we’re not seeing the volumes that can’t be handled but given what we’re seeing elsewhere, if that were to happen, the more we can do here, and we’re just across the street from the hospital, that’s less that will be overwhelming our ER physicians, hospitalists and intensive care providers," he said.
The clinic also started an extended use program early on as a way to conserve their personal protective equipment, again learning from what was happening at other hospitals and clinics.
Dr. Pauly, M.D. said what will determine what they see is what people do in the community, and that makes following precautionary guidelines all the more critical.
"Social distancing or physical distancing, whichever you want to call it, is hugely important. Slowing this to the point where we don’t overwhelm our healthcare systems is the best way that we can all get adequate care in case we do get sick," said Dr. Pauly, M.D.
The Respiratory Rapid Response Clinic holds office hours seven days a week.
Dr. Pauly, M.D. added they recently received a donation of N-95 masks from a local co-op, helping to replenish the clinic's supply.