By KEN JOHNSON
Hutchinson Regional Healthcare Healthcare System
HUTCHINSON, Kan. — It was my good fortune this past week to join a group of Reno County healthcare professionals and Mayor Jade Piros de Carvalho to participate in a Town Hall meeting on the subject of COVID-19. The presenters at the forum included representatives of the Hutchinson Clinic, PrairieStar Health Center, the Reno County Health Department and Hutchinson Regional Medical Center. Thanks are in order for the Hutchinson/Reno County Chamber of Commerce in hosting this event during a time that has been described as the nation’s most sobering healthcare crisis in a century.
The meeting was put together to provide reassurance to our community of the high quality of healthcare organizations that exist within Hutchinson and of the significant amount of resources available. It was readily apparent that we are blessed with a proactive and highly trained group of healthcare providers who are working in tandem. Many communities of our size across the nation do not have the number of services available as Hutchinson.
Each organization pledged to work together to utilize the full resources of their facility or organization to find the best solutions to combat COVID-19.
Many things come to mind as Hutchinson Regional Medical Center activates detailed contingency plans to deal with our current emergency. By nature, we as human beings are social creatures and thrive on social interaction with family, friends and work associates. We are strengthened and empowered through these associations. In the short term, this must all change.
As the old expression goes, we all need to “hunker down” and, for the foreseeable future, change our normal lifestyle and routines. The sooner we do so, the quicker we can move beyond COVID-19.
We may hear the term “social distancing” more than we wish, but no two words better explain a significant aspect of what is required to move beyond the current crisis. We should maintain a radius of six feet when communicating with another person and limit our interactions to 10 minutes when possible.
Other precautions that deserve repeating include washing hands thoroughly and often with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub for at least 20 seconds and avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth.
If you are concerned about symptoms of COVID-19, call your doctor for guidance about how to proceed. Your doctor will help you decide on the next best course of action.
Reno County Health Department Director/Health Officer Dr. Nick Baldetti urged participants in the meeting to prepare for the long haul as the length of the crisis can’t be forecast yet.
Mayor Piros de Carvalho summed up the meeting by pointing out that COVID-19 is not Hutchinson’s first crisis. During the past 20 years, Hutchinson has dealt with issues including natural gas explosions to devastating fires to the north of our city. To our credit, according to the mayor, Hutchinson and Reno County emerged as a stronger community and more prepared to deal with the next challenge.
This week, Hutchinson Regional Medical Center closed its door to all visitors. The COVID-19 virus poses an unprecedented threat to the health of our community. We acknowledge this will be stressful to our patients and their families, but it is necessary to protect the health of our patients, providers and staff. During this trying time, we ask everyone to treat others with patience and grace as we overcome these challenges.
Other changes in place at Hutch Regional to deal with the crisis include steps to ensure the hospital environment is pristine clean, holding group meetings online and reducing travel to a bare minimum. Hutchinson Regional Healthcare System entities including Hospice & HomeCare of Reno County, Health-E-Quip, and Horizons Mental Health Center remain open for business. In some situations, Horizons Mental Health Center therapy may be interactive through Tele-Medicine. Horizons is available with counseling services to assist individuals having a psychiatric crisis. If a crisis occurs after hours, Horizons provides a Crisis Line answered by clinicians and can be accessed by calling 1-800-794-0163.
This crisis will pass and, as long as we remain calm and focused on caring for one another, we will come out of this a stronger and more connected community.