Staff Writer | December 6, 2020, 1:00 AM
Bonner General Health is helping dispel the many myths and confusion surrounding COVID-19.
The questions range from how many beds the hospital is licensed for — 25 — and how many are COVID isolation rooms — eight — to whether the hospital receives money for identifying positive COVID-19 cases — they don’t.
As questions come up the hospital posts the questions to its website on a special page dedicated to the virus and facts about COVID-19.
“The health and safety of our community is the top priority of Bonner General Health,” the website reads. “The latest information on COVID-19 will be posted here as it becomes available.”
The FAQs cover not only the familiar questions about the use of masks and testing, but more topical questions including what happens if your tests comes back positive, whether insurance covers the test, and what measures are being undertaken by the hospital to keep patients and staff safe.
“I want to assure you at Bonner General Health our focus is the safety of our health care team, patients, and community,” hospital CEO Sheryl Rickard said in a video posted to the page. “We understand it’s an uncertain time and this situation can feel frightening and overwhelming. We are here to support you. Our staff and physicians have demonstrated outstanding teamwork, skill, and professionalism. They continue to impress me every day with their ability to adapt and respond to this ever-changing situation. We don’t know what the future holds but we are doing everything we can to keep you, our employees, nurses, physicians, and volunteers safe as we continue providing care.”
Below are questions asked by the Daily Bee, answered by the BGH staff to ensure the community has the facts regarding COVID-19.
How many rooms do you have? What are they for, and how are they used?
Bonner General is licensed for 25 beds. Twenty-one of these beds are for medical/surgical patients, including acute care and critical care. This includes our COVID isolation rooms, —8 rooms set-up for COVID positive patients. Four are for labor and delivery, postpartum – Not included in the current total acute/critical care capacity.
Why can’t all rooms be used for critical care?
The care and resources required for a critical care patient are particular. Those resources, including the equipment and specially trained staff needed to care for a critical care patient, are not always available. We also have to anticipate space for patients who require other levels of care and treatment
Do you have enough room to care for patients?
Most days, yes. Bonner General Health’s capacity if fluid and changes daily. We have had several days over the last month in which we are near capacity and have had to find alternative care for patients. With most hospitals in the region reaching or at capacity on any given day, this presents a challenge. Earlier this week, we had to transfer a patient to Missoula, MT, due to Spokane and Coeur d’Alene hospitals not accepting transfers due to capacity issues.
Here is an example of our capacity on any given day: On Thursday, December 3, 2020, at 6:30 a.m., we had 18 inpatients; two of these patients were COVID+, one on medical/surgical, one in ICU. This put BGH at 86% capacity with the availability of three beds. These numbers do not consider what type of patients are down in our Emergency Department and what level of care those patients may need.
There’s a persistent internet rumor that hospitals get money for identifying a positive COVID-19 case? Can you give us the facts?
Bonner General Health does not receive money as a result of positive COVID-19 lab results. When the need for consistent COVID-19 testing was identified in Bonner County, Bonner General Health provided this public service. The lab testing fees charged for these tests do not cover the cost to run our COVID-19 drive-thru, which runs five days a week and through our Emergency Department on the weekends. 5. There’s a lot of debate about masks and their effectiveness against COVID-19. What are the facts? We follow CDC guidelines in regards to masks:
• COVID-19 spreads mainly from person to person through respiratory droplets. Respiratory droplets travel into the air when you cough, sneeze, talk, shout or sing. These droplets can then land in the mouths or noses of those near you, or they may breathe these droplets in.
• Masks are a simple barrier to help prevent your respiratory droplets from reaching others. Studies show that masks reduce the spray of droplets when worn over the nose and mouth.
• It is imperative to wear a mask when you cannot stay at least 6 feet apart from others since COVID-19 spreads mainly among people in close contact (within about 6 feet).
If someone is testing more than once and tests positive each time, do they count as separate cases?
No. The county’s tracking numbers reported by Panhandle Health District represent the number of COVID-19 positive individuals, not the number of positive test results.
Bonner General Health reports our testing stats to our local providers and on our website. These stats include the total number of tests we have completed at BGH, positives, negatives, pending, and current hospitalizations. The testing numbers we report on our website do not include testing numbers from other healthcare facilities.
There are all kinds of claims on the internet and social media that numbers are inflated. What are the facts regarding COVID-19 case totals?
The process for Bonner General Health is as follows:
• Our drive-thru and our emergency department’s collection of test swabs are either processed in our in-house lab or sent to Incyte Lab in Spokane.
• Once we have received positive results notification, we report these numbers to Panhandle Health District, the patient’s provider, or directly to the patient if they are in our care.
• Panhandle Health District reports the numbers to our State Department of Health and Welfare, who then passes them on to the CDC.
What is the difference between COVID-19 and the flu? Can I have both?
There are many similarities between COVID-19 and influenza; both are respiratory viruses, including a range of symptoms: fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle pain or body aches, & headache. COVID-19 seems to spread more quickly than flu and can cause more severe illness. It can also take longer to present with symptoms, and you may be contagious for a more extended period than influenza. The main difference is the flu vaccine’s availability versus a COVID-19 vaccination, which is only now becoming available in a limited capacity. Studies show it is unlikely you will have both COVID-19 and influenza at the same time. (More information available at cdc.gov).
How is the pandemic affecting the rest of the hospital? Are you stopping surgeries from accommodating more patients?
Bonner General Health has seen an increase in sick employees, resulting in staff shortages and, we have been near capacity several days throughout the last month. We have not had to stop surgeries to accommodate more patients; however, our leadership and medical staff review this daily.
How old are the patients hospitalized? Is it just the old and those with underlying conditions that are impacted?
While many of our patients have been elderly, they do not account for all of our inpatients. We have seen patients in their 40s and 50s with no co-morbidities who have been very sick. Our inpatient age range starts at the late-30s and upward.
Several vaccines are close to being ready. Are they safe? What should I know about them, and should I get one?
It’s essential to look at the science and sort through the misinformation that is out there. The new funding improved technologies and cutting out a lot of the administrative “red tape” lead to a vaccine that was developed faster than we’ve ever seen. While the vaccine was being developed, a system to produce and distribute it was put into place. The efficiency of product development, production, and distribution are unprecedented for any medication. However, this should not be interpreted as that safety was compromised or that short cuts were taken. Ultimately it is our decision whether to get the COVID-19 vaccine, but keep in mind, no drug company or government agency would want to sacrifice their reputation by releasing a product that was not tested thoroughly.