One of the biggest news stories through the world and in the United States has been the approval of the Pfizer Vaccine. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment surveyed hospitals in October to understand the number of employees that were in clinical positions with high-risk exposure to COVID-19 in the ICU, ED and our COVID unit, and health care personnel with patient contact who are not providers but could possibly be exposed. The unique thing about hospitals like Hiawatha Community Hospital is that we have limited staff and everybody works together as a team to provide patient care. Many wear different hats, but we are all at HCH for the same reason – to care for the patients we serve.
We knew, from KDHE, that Kansas would be receiving about 24,000 first doses of Vaccine. On Tuesday, we were notified that on Wednesday morning, we will be receiving our first allotment of vaccine for our employees who are at risk for exposure to COVID 19. We have four days to administer the vaccine to the employees.
Jean Abeita, our Pharmacy Director, did a great video segment to share information to employees on the science behind the vaccine and how the vaccine was delivered so quickly and safely to the community. Jean explained that “this vaccine was able to be fast tracked and ready this soon because of simultaneous clinical trials and efficiencies in manufacturer. To have a vaccine with 95% efficacy is truly incredible.” Jean’s message is so clear that it is inspiring to be part of the plan to help control this pandemic. Jean’s video is available on our Hiawatha Community Hospital Facebook page.
The process for rolling out the vaccines is critical as we need to strategically stagger the vaccinations so that all the staff in one department are not receiving the administration at the same time. There are normal and expected potential side effects to the vaccine such as fever and soreness. We will be setting up three cycles to administer the vaccine so that it limits the potential for too many staff in a unit are off at one time.
When visiting with our providers, they were also eager to get the vaccine. We have had many volunteers to be the first in line for the vaccine. It is great to see so much confidence in the vaccine.
We do have some staff that are undecided and not sure if they will take the vaccine. The COVID-19 Vaccine will not be mandatory at Hiawatha due the availability, and due to the fact that the vaccine was approved under an Emergency Utilization Authorization. This is the recommendation of the CDC. There are great resources at the CDC https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/covid-19/index.html.
In follow up to the early articles on the hospital activity, the first week of December our patient volume was extremely high with Nov. 30, we had over 60 patients present to the hospital in the West Clinic and the ED. We also had our peak census of 9 COVID patients in the Hospital. This was challenging with 19 staff members out on quarantine. With great teamwork and staffing huddle calls, we were able to care for patients. The following week, we did see a drop in volume of symptomatic patients and quite a few of our staff members were able to return to work. This week, so far our peak census for COVD has been 5 patients out of 11.
One of the contributing factors I believe that is helping with decreasing the number of patients coming to the hospital is that Brown County adopted the mask mandate. This has really been challenged in other communities and I am so grateful that our communities understand the implication of not wearing the mask:
1. The asymptomatic and symptomatic spread of COVID continues unrelenting.
a. This is over whelming to hospitals like ours as well as the larger hospitals who do not have a bed available for the critically ill sometimes.
b. Care can be delayed due to the number of hospitals that have to be called to accept a critical care patient.
2. Asymptomatic patients with COVID-19
a. We test every patient being admitted to the hospital or being transferred to a tertiary center to confirm whether they have COVID-19. This past week for the first time since we started the process at Hiawatha Community Hospital, we had 11% of our asymptomatic patients test positive!
b. Most of the COVID positive patients that I have visited with report that they have not knowingly been in contact with other COVID positive or symptomatic people. This is considered asymptomatic spread. Wearing a mask protects you and the people around you.
Thank you again for your support of the providers and the staff of Hiawatha Community Hospital by wearing a mask, even when indoors and physically distanced outside your home. You are helping us to stop the spread of the COVIC-19.