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Answering Your Questions about COVID-19

Dec 30, 2020

Dear fellow community members and colleagues,

Although we have been through stay-at-home orders earlier this year, I have received many new questions this time that I would like to address for you. I hope that the following will be helpful:

Question: With the increase in COVID-19 cases causing stay-at-home orders, can the hospitals take patients?
Answer: Yes – our hospitals are safe with separate areas for COVID-19 positive patients and the general patient population, and we are properly staffed and equipped. Every person who may need care, regardless of the reason, should feel secure at Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center and Twin Cities Community Hospital. It is important to not delay emergency or surgical care and focus on the importance of treatment and early diagnosis of chronic and new conditions that may have developed over the course of the last few months in particular. We have been preparing and continue to prepare for the surge of critical patients in our community. We are closely monitoring the census in our hospitals and will make rapid adjustments as needed.

Question: How do Tenet hospitals keep non-COVID patients safe?
Answer: Since the early days of the pandemic, we have implemented “COVID SAFE” standards across our network and demonstrated success. Our COVID SAFE standards include distinct, separate entrances and patient areas. We are very well prepared for this: hospitals have had in place the discipline of infectious disease control as a standard of care going back some 70 years, and the principles are built upon clinical expertise from previous crises as well as the ongoing management of COVID-19. We have a rigorous combination of infection-prevention control policies and processes, training, testing, personal protective equipment and technology, which has come to the fore during the pandemic.

Question: What if I am unsure about coming into the Emergency Department?
Answer: We completely understand that people may be nervous about going to the Emergency Department regardless of the pandemic, but it is very important to get care as fast as possible in an emergency. That’s why we encourage anyone who might feel unsure about going to the Emergency Room to call our Tele-ER service, which is the only one in the county.

Tele-ER allows anyone to talk to a board-certified Emergency Department physician 24 hours a day, seven days a week. All you need is a smartphone, tablet or computer. I encourage you to put this number on your mobile phone in case you might need it: (805) 546-7990. The virtual visit cost is typically $20 for Medicare patients and Tele-ER may be eligible for reimbursement from other insurance providers. Tele-ER is an evaluation tool for patients seeking emergent care and is not a substitute for calling 9-1-1: if a person’s condition worsens quickly or requires immediate attention, they will be directed to hang up and call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest Emergency Department.

Question: I need to have surgery – can I still have it? Is it safe?
Answer: Yes. Tenet Health Central Coast is safe for surgeries with special protocols to minimize exposure risk for patients, physicians and staff. We have separated care pathways, which clearly partition scheduled procedural care from any COVID-19 patient care to mitigate risk of transmission, and we have sufficient PPE inventory to accommodate scheduled procedures as well as manage a potential local surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations, should it occur.

Question: Are all patients being tested for COVID-19?
Answer: Yes, all admitted Inpatients and Observation Patients are being tested for COVID-19.

Question: When will the new vaccines be at the hospitals?
Answer: We anticipate vaccines will arrive mid-December and they will initially be offered to frontline healthcare workers who directly work with COVID-19 patients. According to the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, supplies of the vaccines will be limited at first – therefore, we will vaccinate eligible members of our staff in accordance with FDA, CDC, state and local guidelines.

Until we achieve significant rates of vaccination in our communities, the most effective safety measures we can take against COVID-19 continue to be wearing a mask, washing our hands, and maintaining social distance. These measures are important during the holidays as we continue to see a surge in COVID cases and hospitalizations.

Wishing you wonderful, safe and healthy holidays,

Mark Lisa, CEO
Tenet Health Central Coast