Elective procedures return at hospital

Windemere residents, staff to be tested by National Guard.

Martha's Vineyard Hospital is reporting two new confirmed case of COVID-19.

The Martha’s Vineyard Hospital is bringing back a slate of elective procedures after putting them on hold during the coronavirus pandemic.

In a conference call with reporters Wednesday, hospital CEO Denise Schepici and chief medical officer Dr. Pieter Pil said clinical procedures, services for priority preventive care, pediatric care, diagnostic and treatment for high-risk patients are being offered again.

“The hospital is open. We’ve never closed, but we are returning to some more elective procedures,” Schepici said. “We have a plan in place to take care of both COVID- and non-COVID-related care.”

Pil dubbed the opening of elective procedures the first phase of the hospital’s reimagining of its care plan. Beginning next week, the hospital will begin pediatric visits, immunizations, and seeing patients with chronic diseases such as diabetes.

On June 1, the hospital will be open to endoscopy procedures for symptomatic and high-risk patients, and performing other urgent surgical procedures. The end of the first phase will allow for rehab patients to schedule in-person visits.

“As we go forward in a world of COVID, the way we approach the delivery of care will be different for the foreseeable future,” Pil said. “So we’re not really recovering from anything, we’ve always been open, but what we’re really working on is reimagining how we can deliver care in the safest fashion to our patients.” 

Other changes have been instituted in the hospital; all patients and staff are temperature-screened when coming into the hospital, and the hospital has been “swamped” with hand-sanitizer stations. There is also a universal mask policy for all those entering the hospital. Patients will also be asked to stay in their cars while waiting for appointments. No visitors will be allowed for the “foreseeable future,” according to Pil.

As for Gov. Charlie Baker’s four-phase reopening plan, Schepici said she was “very supportive” of it.

“I think the governor is being very, very prudent. I like how the governor continues to follow the data,” Schepici said. “I know it’s disappointing to the business community, but I don’t think any of us should have expected it was going to be all or none.”

In response to the Steamship Authority Nantucket employee who tested positive for COVID-19 ahead of Memorial Day weekend, Schepici said she is concerned every time a new positive test is confirmed.

“We just have to keep continuing to practice what has kept our numbers low here,” Schepici said. “Every time there’s a new positive, I cringe.”

With nursing homes across the state hit hard by the spread of COVID-19, the Department of Public Health is having the National Guard test all 46 residents and 64 staff of the Windemere Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. No one at Windemere has tested positive for COVID-19, but the hospital is having the testing out of an abundance of caution.

In addition to the testing, the nursing facility has been conducting daily screening and temperature checks for staff and residents. Windemere has also suspended its volunteer programs, prohibited visitors, implemented telehealth visits, and supplied all residents with masks.

Speaking to people coming for Memorial Day weekend, Schepici asked for them to adhere to proper social distancing and hand-washing protocols.

“Please take care,” Schepici said. “Don’t be callous about this thing.”

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have remained steady at the hospital since a new case was confirmed on Saturday, bringing the hospital’s total positive cases to 25. Overall, the hospital has tested 742 patients, with 689 negative tests and 28 pending results. There are zero hospitalizations at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital. While the hospital has kept its hospitalizations low, it has confirmed that three patients, including a maternity patient, have been transferred off-Island. A hospital employee is also one of the confirmed cases.

The Island boards of health, which aggregates tests conducted off-Island, has reported two more positive tests, to bring the total to 27.

Of those, two were tested off-Island, 15 are female, and 12 are male. 

Eight of the cases are aged 50-59 years old, seven cases are 60-69 years old, five are 20-29 years old, two are 30-39 years old, two are 20 years old or younger, two are 40-49, and one is 70 years or older.

According to a detailed report on Friday, 19 of the confirmed positive cases are no longer symptomatic, and have been released from isolation, six are still being monitored by the boards of health, and one was unable to be contacted by the boards of health. Another case was confirmed on Saturday after the detailed report was published.

A new reporting metric on the daily report shows linked cases. According to Tisbury health agent and Island boards of health spokesperson Maura Valley, as of Friday, 16 individuals are linked to another case.

In addition to the confirmed cases, four Vineyarders have had positive antibody tests, and are considered “probable positive” cases, bringing the Island total to 31. Of those antibody tests, two are aged 50-59, one is aged 40-49, and one is aged 20-29. All of the probable positive tests are female. Among the four probable positives are also three linked cases.

At the state level Tuesday, the Department of Public Health reported 76 new COVID-19-related deaths. There have been 5,938 total deaths across the state.

DPH also reported there were 873 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the state total to 87,925. Massachusetts has performed 469,199 tests.