ThedaCare sets up COVID-19 hotline

Respiratory clinics added to virus-related services
Imran AndrabiJennifer Frank
By: 
Carol Ryczek
Editor-in-chief

NEENAH — ThedaCare, a northeast Wisconsin health system which includes a hospital in Shawano, has announced two new services, a community COVID-19 information hotline and respiratory care clinics.

Hotline

ThedaCare has launched a new COVID-19 hotline. Community members can call 920-830-6877 to speak with resource representatives and nurses who will answer medically-related COVID-19 questions or direct patients to the appropriate locations for care.

“These are unprecedented times,” said Dr. Imran Andrabi, ThedaCare President and CEO. “It’s more important than ever that ThedaCare be here and prepared to serve and support the health of our communities.”

Respiratory care clinics

Five ThedaCare respiratory care clinics are now open dedicated to patients experiencing COVID-19-type symptoms. The respiratory care clinics are available by appointment only. Those who are experiencing symptoms should call their primary care provider or the community hotline first. All other ThedaCare clinics that remain open will be used to care for patients who need office visits but are not experiencing respiratory symptoms.

Supplies

In an interview with NEW Media, Andrabi and ThedaCare Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jennifer Frank reported that ThedaCare has adequate supplies for now. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as masks and gloves are available for health care workers, Frank said. ThedaCare is also accepting donations from the community. Instructions for making masks can be found at https://www.thedacare.org/~/media/How-To-Sew-A-Facemask-Instructions.pdf....

Ventilators, devices ussed to help patients who can’t breathe on their own, are also in adequate supply for now, according Iman Andrabi. Their avialabilty is similary to PPEs, he said.

“Use is low in Shawano, as with many critical access communities. The majority are in Appleton and Neenah,” he said.

Andrabi said that whether or not a ventilator was needed, if a patient tested positive, the individual would be transferred to a larger hospital in Appleton or Neenah. ThedaCare Medical Center-Shawano is a critical access hospital, which must have no more than 25 beds and be at least 35 miles from another hospital.

Staffing

ThedaCare is “doing a multitude of things,” to recruit and retain staff, Andrabi said.

One of the initiatives is developing a surge pool, he said, for when the number of cases increases. Support staff are working from home when possible. He added that ThedaCare administrators are supporting legislation that would waive restrictions on licensesd therapists, such as respiratory therapists, coming into Wisconsiin from other states.

Staff are also being recruited from within ThedaCare, he added, particularly from departments that have had to close.

Frank added that Shawano may be able to schedule clinic providers to do hospital work. In addition, some specialists, such as doctors in orthopedic medicine, are able to work in other areas should shortages occur, she said.

She noted that a plastic surgery group in the Fox Valley has offered to do emergency laceration repairs in their clinic, reducing the volume of patients in hospital emergency departments.

Testing

For testing, ThedaCare is following the guidelines of both the state of Wisconsin Department of Health Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Frank said. Healthcare workers, especially those who have been exposed, are a high priority because of their increased risk, she said.

ThedaCare’s partnership with the Mayo Clinic has allowed lab testing — “significantly more testing” than otherwise would have been available, she said.

“We’re hoping to have in-house testing within Shawano,” Franks aid. Onsite testing will greatly improve turnaround time, she said.

Birth center rules

Although some sites nationally are reporting that no visitors are allowed during birth, at Shawano’s birth center, visitor restrictions are in place but mothers can have a partner attend the birth. One person is allowed, but not entire families, Frank said.

Other actions

The respiratory care clinics and hotline are the latest steps ThedaCare has taken to prepare for the impact of COVID-19. Other recent actions include:

• Suspended all elective, non-urgent procedures to make room for patients with this respiratory illness, to conserve supplies and labor.

• Erected tents and trailers outside Emergency Departments to triage patients before they enter so they are directed to the right care areas quickly.

• Set up telehealth programs including eVisits, Video Visits, Telestroke and TeleICU to serve patients while reducing contact where appropriate.

• Launched an online symptom checker where people can check their symptoms and be directed appropriately to care.

• Developed community education and partnerships to coordinate care across health systems and public health.

For more information, go to thedacare.org/coronavirus for announcements, access the symptom checker and preventative actions.

cryczek@newmedia-wi.com