Hospital implements safety plan for staff, patients

As some elective procedures return, the hospital is still prepared for a surge in COVID-19 cases.

The hospital is keeping patients and staff safe with a Safe Care Commitment plan. — Lexi Pline

As it begins to reopen some of its elective surgeries and clinics, and as more seasonal residents and visitors head to the Island for the summer, Martha’s Vineyard Hospital CEO Denise Schepici said the hospital has implemented its Safe Care Commitment plan to keep staff and patients safe.

The plan has three key elements: Screen, clean, and protect.

Speaking to reporters on a teleconference, Schepici said the hospital is screening every person that sets foot in the hospital upon arrival. There are two types of screenings; one is for people admitted to the emergency room as part of the triage process. Visitors for outpatient services and others will be screened prior to their appointment, and then screened once again once they arrive at the hospital.

Cleaning has been amped up around the hospital, including removing furniture in waiting areas and adding hand sanitizer stations around the building. The hospital is protecting staff and patients by requiring masks while on campus, installing Plexiglas barriers in some areas, and limiting the number of visitors coming into clinics.

The Safe Care Commitment plan comes after a “quieter than usual” Memorial Day weekend, according to chief nursing and operations officer Clarie Seguin. She said people should continue to practice proper handwashing and social distancing.

“Follow the guidelines, they’re keeping everyone safe,” Seguin said. “Make sure you’re not putting off important healthcare issues; come to the hospital. Just be ready: It’s a new normal, it’s a new world.”

This week, the hospital has returned some of its elective procedures, including preventive care for pediatric patients, immunizations, some outpatient appointments for chronic disease management, screening mammograms, endoscopy for high risk-patients, removal of cancerous skin lesions, and some urgent elective surgeries.

While the hospital is bringing back elective procedures, they’re still ready for a potential surge in COVID-19 cases. Seguin also said inpatient beds are filling up with non-COVID patients, but some are being kept unoccupied in case of a surge in COVID-19 cases.

“We’re planning for the worst, hoping for the best, and seeing the best right now,” Schepici added.

Schepici said as of now, the hospital is adequately staffed, and more staff can be brought in if there is a surge. The hospital also has more staff currently than it did last summer, which includes additional nursing, advanced practice providers, and other staff.

Schepici said the Island’s hospital is fortunate enough to be a part of the Partners Healthcare system, which has allowed it to avoid layoffs and furloughs, such as what happened at Cape Cod Hospital and Falmouth Hospital, which furloughed a combined 600 employees. 

Through a special program with Partners, the hospital is giving more earned time and vacation time to employees, as long as those employees are willing to take on other jobs if necessary. 

While she is not anticipating any layoffs, Schepici said that could change after June 30, which is when the hospital plans to reassess the COVID-19 situation.

“We may change people’s jobs, because as we reimagine care, we need other types of jobs, like screeners, more guides, and more housekeepers,” Schepici said.

As of Tuesday the hospital has tested 855 patients. Schepici clarified that 23 tests have been positive and three are presumed positive; 801 have tested negative; and 28 are pending results.

The Island boards of health, which aggregate tests conducted off-Island, reported two additional confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the Island’s total number of confirmed cases to 28.

Of those, 16 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, five are 20 years old or younger, two are 40-49, and two are 70 years or older.

The boards of health are also reporting on eight additional “probable positive” cases, which are patients who tested positive for an antibody test, bringing the Island’s total to 35. 

Of those antibody tests, five are female and three are male. Two are aged 50-59, two are aged 40-49, two are 20 years old or younger, one is aged 60-69, and one is aged 20-29.

At the state level Tuesday, the Department of Public Health reported 57 new COVID-19-related deaths. There have been 6,473 total deaths across the state.

DPH also reported a rise in confirmed cases, with 422 new cases, bringing the state total to 93,693. Massachusetts has performed 545,481 tests. There are currently 2,108 COVID-19 patients hospitalized across Massachusetts.