John Broberg

Hospital CEO John Broberg joined the Brown County Commission meeting via Zoom conference Monday morning to provide a hospital update and also encouraged the commissioners to reconsider a mask mandate.

While Brown County COVID-19 coronavirus cases remain relatively low at 36 on Monday morning, Broberg gave several statistics that were concerning — noting there has been a 179 percent increase in the ER with patients presenting COVID symptoms.

“While waiting for the release of the vaccine, we are asking the commissioners to please join us in the fight to slow the spread of COVID-19 by mandating the use of face coverings in our communities in order to keep businesses thriving, schools open, our healthcare resources available and our community members healthy,” he said.

Broberg said the hospital officials felt that wearing face coverings when out in public was critical to stop the spread of COVID-19, noting “we don’t want to get back to being shut down.” He noted he was in Kansas City at a public shopping area and was pleased to see a number of people wearing masks.

He likened the wearing of face coverings to wearing seatbelts in vehicles.

“We know we wear seatbelts because it protects us,” Broberg told the commissioners. “This is along the same line.”

Broberg said the percentage of case increase was more than 100 percent increase in a month.

“How many do we have to get in order for us to wear masks?” he said.

Broberg also provided a report on COVID cases treated at the hospital, noting that at the time of the report, 24 have recovered. Several were transferred to a higher level of care at other hospitals.

“This pandemic continues to have center stage,” he said. “I continue to be so impressed with the dedication of the staff, providers and the leadership team for being flexible and agile as we continue to adjust and modify our plans to assure we keep our patients, staff and our community safe.”

The hospital has faced some staffing issues due to injury, maternity leaves and quarantining. Due to this, the hospital will be transferring COVID positive patients requiring hospitalization to St. Joseph or Topeka.

The hospital is also re-evaluating the visitation restrictions and will continue with screening for patients coming into the facility.

“We are still requiring face covering in the hospital and encouraging the community to wear a face covering as well when social distance is not possible,” Broberg said. “I appreciate the other local employers and retailers who have mandated that masks be worn in their locations, as well.”

The hospital has a mobile clinic and a COVID line, which as of last Thursday had received 1,152 calls. The mobile clinic — located at the former Searight Family Clinic building, has seen 171 patients so far in July — up 11 percent compared to June for a total of 537 since April 27.

As of July 30, hospital staff has completed 289 swabs in July and 149 tests in June for a total of 840 COVID tests, including 132 pre-procedure tests.

Broberg also shared financial reports with the commission, noting that gross revenue was up $736 compared to June and 6 percent higher than June 2019.

“With our reopening plan, beginning with surgery, most departments experienced an increase in volume over May,” he said.

The hospital is continuing to utilize stimulus funds and the Payroll Protection Fund. In addition, Hiawatha Community Hospital continues to meet with Atchison Hospital officials to collaborate with the Horton Clinic, which recently hired a fulltime nurse practitioner.

HCH also is working on tackling challenges concerning recruitment, working with the Kansas Recruitment and Retention Center to hire two physicians by July 2021 and one additional by July 2022 to replace current providers who will be retiring.

Broberg said all visitors to the hospital are screened upon entry and he doesn’t anticipate this procedure going away soon. They are recruiting two full time staff for the screening table.

“With the various departments increasing their volume, staffing of the screening table has been a challenge and we anticipate the need for the screening table in the foreseeable future,” he said.

The commissioners thanked Broberg for his report, but did not have any additional discussion concerning his request for them to reconsider face coverings.

In other business:

Motion by Keith Olsen to recommend reimbursement from Brown County SPARK to Brown County District Court for $1,101.60. Seconded by Richard Lehmkuhl. Motion carried. SPARK Motion by Keith Olsen to recommend reimbursement from Brown County SPARK to Brown County District Court for $1,101.65. Seconded by Richard Lehmkuhl. Motion carried.

Brown County Clerk, Melissa Gormley, requested a 5 minute executive session with the three commissioners and Melissa Gormley present to discuss personnel matters of non-elected personnel. Motion by Keith Olsen for a 5 minute executive session on non-elected personnel with the three Commissioners and Melissa Gormley, present to discuss personnel matters of non-elected personnel with executive session necessary to protect privacy interests. Seconded by Richard Lehmkuhl. Closed 8:49 a.m. Opened 8:54 a.m. No binding action was taken.

The commissioners approved the following SPARK reimbursements: $6,715 for the health nurse wages; Brown County District Court for $549.87 for a video system and sneeze guard.

Brown County Clerk, Melissa Gormley, reported Brown County has had 190 early voters, 626 advanced ballots have been received out of the 855 that were mailed.

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