Frequently asked questions about the novel coronavirus (COVID-19)
What is Auburn Community Hospital’s (ACH) plan to minimize the spread of COVID-19?
ACH has a sophisticated emergency response plan that has effectively managed previous infectious disease outbreaks, including SARS in 2003, H1N1 (swine flu) in 2009 and Ebola in 2014.
Our team at Auburn Community Hospital has public health emergency plans in place and is constantly updating our strategy and aggressively monitoring what’s going on. We have infectious disease professionals at ACH and work with other physicians including infectious disease experts at SUNY Upstate Medical Center to make sure we are prepared for anything that currently comes our way.
Additionally, ACH and Cayuga County Health Department officials are in daily contact to coordinate any screening or updates that make sense. Should we identify people who have the virus, we will isolate and treat those patients and also make sure our staff takes all the necessary precautions so they remain healthy and able to do their jobs. In coordination with our Emergency Management team, we’ve implemented existing guidelines and procedures to identify potential patients as soon as they enter the health system’s hospitals and other facilities. These comprehensive guidelines direct employees through the appropriate disease recognition, infection prevention, treatment, isolation and reporting protocols.
How is ACH protecting staff?
In cases where a provider is caring for a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patient, the provider will use an N95 respirator, as well as other personal protective equipment, including gowns, gloves and protective goggles.
The front-line providers in ACH’s Emergency Departments are trained on appropriate use to reduce exposure when a potential case presents. We remain vigilant in performing hand hygiene when removing personal protective equipment and routinely practicing hand hygiene, routinely cleaning equipment and adhering to environmental cleaning and disinfection each day, as well as when patients are discharged. We are also following waste management protocols after treating patients with suspect/confirmed COVID-19.
As a whole, ACH is following standards that meet and go beyond the CDC’s recommendations. The COVID-19 outbreak is an evolving situation and the Hospital and our related Primary Care Practices health stands ready to adhere to changing recommendations from regulatory agencies.
ACH has notified our volunteers not to come in effective March 16, 2020 until further notice.
What is ACH’s policy on employees who are unwell at work?
It is very important that employees follow the directives regarding this virus and the symptoms that have been outlined by Erin Wilbur, our Infection Control Nurse, and other members of management. If an employee falls ill while at work, they must report to the Employee Health Nurse immediately for a screening assessment. At night or on the weekends, please contact the Nursing Supervisor for screening. Based on the assessment, an employee may be sent home and must then work with a health care provider or the Cayuga Health Department, to enter into isolation for a determined amount of time, based on positive or negative test results. Once cleared to come back to work, employees must contact the Employee Health Nurse beforehand.
Employees who are out ill will be expected to follow the ACH or AMMS PC sick policy and utilize EBT time. Those in quarantine or directed to stay out on self-isolation (due to travel to high risk countries by choice) will be expected to use PBT time.
While it is impossible for anyone to predict the spread of the coronavirus and fully understand its impact, it does not alter our concern for our employees. As this situation continues to develop, we will monitor CDC and Department of Health recommendations and communicate any changes to our guidelines.
Are there any limitations on visitation to Auburn Community Hospital or the Finger Lakes Center For Living (Nursing Home)?
Due to the spread of novel coronavirus (COVID-19), visitation at ACH will be limited beginning March 17, 2020 at 7am until further notice. The Finger Lakes Center For Living has already restricted all visitors. These policies have been implemented in an effort to protect our patients, many of whom may be particularly vulnerable to this infection There are special circumstances at ACH in which some visitation may be allowed. Visitation exceptions will be limited to a maximum of one healthy individual over the age of 18. All visitor exceptions will be subject to approval by an ACH Clinical Provider and the successful completion of a health screening.
All visitors allowed by special circumstance will be required to sign in and out and will be issued an ID bracelet to be worn throughout the duration of the visit.
For ACH employees, badge access will be necessary for entry. Employees can continue to enter facilities at all access points equipped with card readers.
What is ACH’s policy on outpatient visits?
All outpatient visitors are required to complete a health screening prior to entry. For patients undergoing procedures, one healthy adult may accompany the patient and wait in the day surgery waiting area if they so choose, or they may leave contact information and they be notified when the patient is ready for discharge (highly recommended).
What is ACH’s policy on emergency room visits?
All ER visitors are required to complete a health screening prior to entry. One healthy adult may accompany ER patients during the visit. The visitor must remain in the patient room. Any special circumstances or exceptions will be considered by the clinical leader and/or provider.
Is ACH offering telemedicine services?
We will be implementing telemedicine for outpatient follow-up visits that are reimbursed. Performing telemedicine through Medent is relatively easy and simple to set up for any clinic. Although telemedicine will not be appropriate for all patients, we are hopeful that this service will help improve access for patients over the next several weeks. Patients should ask their doctor about this option.
How is COVID-19 tested?
ACH tests individuals who are symptomatic and whose travel history suggests they may have been exposed. Testing, which take samples of mucus and saliva, is currently coordinated through the Cayuga County Health department.
Is ACH currently testing patients for COVID-19?
ACH is working with the Cayuga County Health Department to test patients for COVID-19. We are working on setting some drive through testing sites that will greatly enhance ACH’s ability to manage patients with potential infection, testing will continue to be reserved for those at risk for severe disease in addition to those who have had confirmed close contact with an infected individual.
Who is ACH testing?
While ACH continues to expand its COVID-19 testing capacity with Cayuga County Health Department, we are presently testing patients who have symptoms consistent with COVID-19 who potentially had close contact with an infected individual. Only people who meet those criteria will be tested. All others who are concerned about exposure but who have no symptoms should recuperate at home.
How serious is COVID-19 risk compared to flu risk?
You are at far greater risk of contracting the flu than COVID-19 at the current time. The flu has already killed more than 18,000 people in the U.S. this season. If you haven’t received the flu vaccine yet, do so immediately. The best way to avoid getting sick is to vigilantly wash your hands, and avoid close contact with sick people and congested areas.
These measures are in place for the safety of everyone. The Hospital and The Finger Lakes Center for Living Visitor Policy is intended to provide additional safeguards for our patients, families, visitors and caregivers through decreased exposure to individuals who may have been exposed to the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Due to the changing nature of COVID-19’s presence in New York State this policy will be revised accordingly in response to circumstances.
What is ACH’s plan to minimize the spread of COVID-19?
The Hospital has a sophisticated emergency response plan that has effectively managed previous infectious disease outbreaks, including SARS in 2003, H1N1 (swine flu) in 2009 and Ebola in 2014.
In coordination with our Emergency Management team, we’ve implemented existing guidelines and procedures to identify potential patients as soon as they enter the hospital and other facilities and primary care offices. These comprehensive guidelines direct employees through the appropriate disease recognition, infection prevention, treatment, isolation and reporting protocols.
Clinicians also stand ready to identify those who are sick or at risk. Patients who are suspected of having novel coronavirus are isolated appropriately.
Will there be funding for the Hospital from the State or Federal Government to help with the costs associated with Coronavirus?
We are currently monitoring the debate in Congress that will include relief for Hospitals and are working with NYS and Cayuga County on other funding that may be available at some point. Right now our patients and employees are our number one priority and we will worry about the financial implications later. We are however tracking time and other costs related to preparation and management of the virus.
What else can I do to stay well during this crisis?
Remaining in good physical and emotional health is important as COVID-19 continues to spread. Consider the following tips:
- Obtain your flu shot if you have not already.
- Exercise good judgment by avoiding non-essential travel to impacted areas identified by the CDC.
- Take practical steps such as routine hand washing to protect yourself and your families.
Other helpful information on COVID-19 can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.
If a member of the public has coronavirus-related questions, is showing possible symptoms, or may have had an exposure to someone diagnosed with a positive case of COVID-19, they should call this line to be guided on next steps. The number is 315-464-3979.
The calls will be triaged using algorithms developed by clinical staff at Upstate University Hospital. Upstate Hospital’s COVID-19 triage line is part of an ongoing effort to provide information to the public, while ensuring emergency departments and community physicians are not overwhelmed with non-emergency visits during this pandemic.
The line will be open daily from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. It will be staffed with volunteers from across the Upstate campuses, and a health care provider will be available at all times to assist with triaging calls.