Point of View: South Peninsula Hospital is preparing for pandemic

“Hope for the best and prepare for the worst.” Several times on recent daily updates, I have heard Dr. Anne Zink, Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer, use this expression. It’s an old expression dating back to the 1561 play “The Tragedie of Gorboduc” that warns a young queen of the dangers of misgovernment, and depicts a family and a country torn apart by civil war.

Now, as a pandemic virus is sweeping the world and wreaking havoc on our health, societal norms and economy, we are using this as our mantra to focus on optimism, even as we expeditiously prepare our hospital and community to wage war against this virus.

At South Peninsula Hospital, our emergency preparedness team has used our Hospital Incident Command System, and drawn on many years of planning and preparation to mobilize our staff and resources to respond to this pandemic.

With the help and coordination of our partners in the community, city, borough, and state, our medical staff, leadership and staff are working extremely hard to achieve the following:

• Social/Physical Distancing: We continue to encourage everyone to take very seriously the guidance and State mandates Alaskans have received around travel, social distancing and self-isolation. While some of these measures are extreme, they may ultimately save lives, and allow us to care for the people who will need the hospital and caregivers in the coming days.

• COVID-19 Testing: We continue to coordinate with Public Health and state officials to test for COVID-19. As of April 1, we have tested 60 patients at SPH. Testing has been sent to state and private labs, and we have received 39 negative and one confirmed positive test result. The remaining test results are pending. As of today, we are not testing patients without symptoms unless advised by a provider order or public health request. We are capable of testing in-house and remain optimistic that we can initiate in-house testing as soon as test kits are available for hospital use.

• Personal Protective Equipment: We are conserving PPE to ensure the safety of patients and staff for now and weeks to come. As of today, we have sufficient resources; however, management of these resources is extremely important, and our team is working diligently to ensure we will have the resources when we need them. We are appreciative of all of the local support we continue to experience in helping us meet our need.

• Alternate Care Sites: We have exercised our agreement with the Christian Community Church to use their facility on Bartlett Street as an alternate care site for overflow of COVID-19 patients. We are incredibly grateful for their support of our efforts. The City of Homer and KPB have also graciously offered the HERC as an alternate testing site if the demand arises.

• South Peninsula Hospital Inpatient Services: Our operations team has worked to restructure areas within the hospital to treat COVID-19 patients, and isolate them from other acute care patients and long term care residents. We have restricted visitation throughout the hospital and long term care, and appreciate your willingness to comply.

• Provider Clinics: Our providers continue to work to see urgent and emergent cases at our clinic locations. We have also expanded the ability for telehealth visits from certain providers.

Given the amount of information we receive from all sources on an hourly basis, we highly encourage our community to follow developments at our website www.sphosp.org and State of Alaska updates at www.coronavirus.alaska.gov.

As we head into more challenging times, I would like to thank all of our employees for their willingness to go where they are needed. While all are not on the front lines, it is important for our hospital and community caregivers, and support services staff, to know we are so thankful for your efforts.

We will do our best to make sure you have the resources you need to do your job safely, all while providing the best possible level of care for our community in this time of need.

I am humbled by the outpouring of support from our residents and local businesses. From offerings of homemade masks to meals for staff, to thank you signs and words of encouragement, this community has truly come together to support our healthcare workers.

Thank you for your prayers and kindness. When we come through this current crisis and pandemic together, we will owe a large debt of gratitude to all of you for your support.

Ryan Smith is the CEO and Incident Commander for South Peninsula Hospital