Orleans Community Health has adapted to serve community during pandemic
OCH has done more than 3,000 Covid tests, administered more than 2,600 Covid vaccines
MEDINA – Orleans Community Health staff are praising actions taken by department heads to minimize spread of the Covid virus and assure the safest results for the community during the past 13 months of the Covid-19 pandemic.
OCH staff during a recent interview reflected on a challenging 13 months. Kim Gray, chief nursing officer and director of surgical services; Leighann Van Auker, director of the Emergency Room and Infection Control; Nicole Helsdon, practice manager of the Abion Walk-In Health Clinic; and Jessica Capurso, director of Outreach, Education and Marketing at Community Partners, sat down to talk about steps taken by the hospital and how the pandemic affected services in the Orleans Community Health system.
Medina’s surgical wing was shut down on March 23 and didn’t reopen until the beginning of May, Gray said.
“Since then, we have seen a decrease in surgical patients, because people are afraid to come in to a hospital,” Gray said.
The opposite was true in the Emergency Room, where Van Auker said the normal number of patients seen there was 30, but during the pandemic as many as 100 were seen in a day. They reported four deaths due to Covid during the entire year. Two of those came from a nursing home and the other two were brought in by ambulance.
“We kept the patients we could safely keep and sent away those who needed a higher level of care,” Van Auker said.
Capurso added that Medina Memorial Hospital is a critical access hospital and has no intensive care unit. One change during the pandemic is that all surgical patients have to be tested for Covid and that’s where they utilize the Albion clinic.
‘People were scared, angry and sad. It was a very trying time. In February, 15 percent of the people we tested were positive and we had to call and tell them. In March, we began to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but I still see this as being a long journey.’ – Nicole Helsdon, practice manager at the Albion Walk-In Health Clinic
“During the pandemic, we had a lot of restrictions placed on us,” she said.
Helsdon said they had to work as a team.
“Everything changed,” she said. “There initially was no testing in Orleans County, so we put a heated shed in the parking lot and added staff to man the phones. It was not unusual to have 90 messages a day on our phone. This was all very trying on our staff in the cold winter months, tracking out to the shed four times a day, testing multiple people that were ill and then having to call and tell them they were positive. It was hard on our front end staff, trying to calm scared and anxious patients who were very ill themselves or had family who were ill. The most trying months were December and February.”
Staff was trained on swabbing and testing in a specially designed machine housed in an incubator with arm slots. The room is limited to only the tester, who is fully gowned in PPE.
The clinic holds four testing pods per day, at 9 and 11 a.m. and 1 and 4 p.m. five days a week. On the sixth day, tests are at 10 a.m. and noon. An additional 30 tests can be performed that day with staff on hand.
The Albion clinic is staffed for the capacity of doing 20 tests per pod. More than 3,000 tests have been performed in Albion, Helsdon said. The tests were and still are provided to the community free of charge. The hospital assumes all the costs of staffing, supplies and any other overhead incurred during the pandemic.
“The community has embraced this opportunity for free, convenient testing,” Helsdon said. “We chose to do this to provide a needed service to our community at no cost.”
“People were scared, angry and sad,” she said. “It was a very trying time. In February, 15 percent of the people we tested were positive and we had to call and tell them. In March, we began to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but I still see this as being a long journey.”
Van Auker told how difficult it was to be in charge of her department during this time.
“When we shut down the surgery unit last March, my staff had to cross train,” she said. “They worked nights and weekends and never once complained. All the staff in this hospital stayed positive and willing to help in any way they could.”
Orleans Community Health employs 276 people between the hospital, Albion clinic and dialysis centers in Medina and Batavia.
“Everybody came to work every day with a smile on their face and love in their heart,” Helsdon said.
“I was hoping to support my staff,” Van Auker said. “I tried not to cry in front of them. They needed somebody to take control. I empathized with them and went home and cried. We did everything in their best interests. My staff was crying because they were upset we were going to run out of PPE. We assured the staff we had sufficient personal protective equipment, because we started to manage our PPE at the very beginning. We normally had to change our masks after every use, but during the pandemic we had to reuse them.”
“I think we were top-notch in our safety precautions,” Helsdon said.
“Some people still think we are going a little overboard in our attempts to be safe,” Capurso said.
Patients visiting the Emergency Room still have to go in by themselves.
“We are doing everything we can to keep them safe,” she said. “I think we’ve done a great job of it. These three and our CEO have done a wonderful job.”
“I think our community trusted us,” Gray said.
After doing Covid testing for the community, Helsdon said the Albion clinic decided to offer the vaccine. As of April 1, OCH had given 2,606 vaccines, Capurso said. This includes Pfizer and Moderna first and second doses, plus the one dose Johnson and Johnson.
When they started offering the vaccine, Helsdon said even retired nurses came and volunteered to help.
Gray said the hospital’s pharmacy requests 200 doses of the vaccine every week, but normally get only 100.
Capurso wants to remind the community of the numerous health services provided by Orleans Community Health.
These include Emergency Room service 24/7, a medical surgical unit, residential care unit, Lake Plains Dialysis in Medina and Batavia, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, nutritional counseling, diabetes education, cardiac services, cancer services program, wellness programs, surgical services, a transitional care unit, infusion therapy, respiratory services, health insurance assistance, state-of-the-art imaging services (X-ray, MRI, CT scan, digital, 3D mammography, ultrasonography, echocardiography, the Albion Walk-In Healthcare Center (primary care, occupational health, walk-in lab and X-ray, physical therapy, occupational therapy), lab services in Albion, Medina and Middleport and a wound care center.