Moore County Hospital District (MCHD) officials are stepping up efforts to protect patients and staff from the coronavirus (COVID-19) after cases were confirmed within 100 miles of Dumas and a patient suspected of being infected by the virus was admitted to Memorial Hospital Saturday evening. According to MCHD Chief Executive Officer Jeff Turner on Monday, the individual was admitted displaying symptoms consistent with the virus. (The symptoms are also consistent with other respiratory illnesses.) Test results for the coronavirus have not yet returned from the state. Turner said Monday that the patient's condition had improved since Saturday, leading to optimism about the case. He said the hospital district treats many patients with respiratory conditions. District personnel have tested ten people for coronavirus to date. Nine results have come back negative, with this case still pending. Though there have been no cases confirmed in Moore County, cases have emerged in Amarillo and in Deaf Smith and Oldham Counties. Turner said the district is "going to extremes" to protect patients, staff, and the community to "the fullest extent possible."
Update: On Wednesday, results came back negative for the suspected case. To date, there are still no confirmed cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) in Dumas.
Among the new measures, the district is suspending orthopedic services and all surgeries except in life-threatening cases. Sick patients will no longer be allowed into the main entrance to Memorial Hospital on 2nd Street. They will have to use the emergency room entrance on 1st Street, and hospital officials say patients should only seek emergency room care for life-threatening symptoms.
The main entrance to the hospital will be reserved solely for "well" patients entering for outpatient services between 8 am and 5 pm Monday through Friday. Some of the outpatient services have been moved off site to the Bone and Joint Clinic. In addition, surgery, labor and delivery room patients, and those needing CT and MRI scans will need to call to register so that hospital personnel can escort them into non-public, sterilized entrances away from other patients. Everyone allowed into the hospital or nursing home for any reason will be screened for signs of illness or disease risk factors. Visitors to both facilities had already been severely restricted before the latest measures. No visitors are allowed into the nursing home, and most, except for very few exceptions, are prohibited from the hospital.
In addition, officials say all business and administrative offices will be closed to the public. Business must be performed over the phone or internet, and people needing to drop off payments or paper work will have to use drop boxes that the district will set up outside the main entrance.
The physician clinics of the district are postponing elective procedures and routine visits and restricting immediate care to those who are sick or in pain. Patients are asked to call first to have their symptoms evaluated or to make a TeleHealth appointment. TeleHealth appointments are available at all of the clinics: Family Health, Internal Medicine, Bone and Joint, Foot and Ankle, General Surgery, and Obstetrics and Gynecology.
Patients having symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19), such as fever, cough, or shortness of breath, should call before going to a physician clinic, doctor's office, or the emergency room, so that steps can be taken to protect health care workers and other patients from any possible contagion.
Testing for the coronavirus is becoming more available in Texas and in Dumas, but because testing kits are in short supply, only those with symptoms are being tested, and only on the order of a physician. Routine testing for those without symptoms is not yet available.
Turner says administrators and staff have been making plans and procuring supplies to deal with any eventuality and feel confident about the ability of the district to take care of patients. He says construction has been continuing on the new wing of the hospital and, if necessary, that space could be used in the near future to increase the capacity of the hospital. As one part of the preparations, administrators are putting together a "reserve list" of health care professionals (practitioner, retired, student) not currently working for the district who would be willing and available to work, if needed. Also, because personal protection equipment is in short supply across the country, they are asking the community for donations of washable scrubs in all sizes, N95 masks, clear safety goggles, protective gowns, and forehead thermometers. To make a donation or sign up for the reserve list, call Kathie Fuston ato 806-934-7804.