Eureka Springs Hospital preparing for COVID-19

Friday, March 20, 2020

By Samantha Jones

Eureka Springs Hospital has a preparedness plan in place for dealing with the spread of COVID-19.

According to a press release from the mayor’s assistant Kim Stryker, the hospital is working with the city of Eureka Springs to keep the community safe and healthy in response to the virus.

“We are working as a team to take specific precautions to protect our patients, employees and visitors while providing the best care we possibly can,” the release says.

The release encourages citizens to call their primary care physician if their fever is more than 100.4 degrees or if they have cough or shortness of breath. Citizens should call the hospital at 479-253-7400 before they go to the ER, the release says, or call 911 if they are experiencing these symptoms. At this time, visitors and volunteers are not allowed at the hospital, the release says.

“Clinics will be postponed until further notice,” the release says. “Thank you for your support.”

On Monday night, the commission met via Skype and telephone to discuss everything going on at the hospital. Darrell Parke, who works with Alliance Management Group, said COVID-19 is on everyone’s mind. The hospital has procedures in place to manage the spread of the virus, Parke said.

“But we all know it is changing. It’s changing daily,” Parke said. “We have a tremendous staff that’s put in many hours on this issue.”

Chairman John House said Washington Regional Family Clinic has tests available for COVID-19 and has been screening patients before they even enter the hospital.

“We’ve been testing people,” House said.

Parke said Eureka Springs Hospital hasn’t been given any tests yet and commissioner Michael Merry asked how many COVID-19 patients the hospital could accommodate. The hospital has 15 beds available, Parke said, but isn’t equipped to care for patients who test positive for COVID-19. Instead, Parke said, the hospital is working on an agreement with other hospitals to transfer COVID-19 patients in exchange for patients with less severe illnesses.

“We’re trying to avoid having any COVID-19 patients in the hospital,” Parke said. “We’re trying to figure out how to handle it if that happens.”

Patients will be screened before they enter the hospital, House said.

“We’ll do everything we can to transfer them to higher level of care,” House said. “We don’t have the ability to take on people that sick, so we’re going to try to help offload some of the stress on the bigger hospitals by taking some of their UTI patients or patients that just need fluids so they’re not tied up with that kind of patient.”

Commissioner Ty Burden asked what the hospital staff would do if a patient came in suffering from an emergent respiratory issue.

“We know that’s potentially going to happen,” House said. “When that particular patient comes in … the staff will already be suited up.”

In other business, Parke said the hospital has had difficulty acquiring the radiology equipment the commission agreed to purchase at its Feb. 17 meeting. House said the company that owns the equipment “kept changing the rules” on the commission.

“They kept coming back with even more strict requirements,” House said. “Our attorneys were saying it was illegal. It was against state law for us to sign that kind of a contract. Our hands were tied at that point.”

Parke said he’s working on it and hopes to get the equipment installed soon.

“Installation with the radiology equipment is going to take a bit longer, but we’re going to get that worked out,” Parke said. “[Alliance representative] John Parigi has been in touch with their folks and is working on a relationship and we’re going to try to salvage that, but if not, we’ll move to a plan B and get back to you.”

Parke continued with his report, saying the hospital is negotiating with Dr. Paul Daidone to join the staff to provide hospitalist services. Parke said he’s working to bring a pain doctor on to run a pain clinic as well. Another exciting update, Parke said, is that the 1929 hospital building was recently inspected.

“The good news is it doesn’t look like it’s going to collapse,” Parke said.

Also at the meeting, treasurer Barbara Dicks presented the financial report. Dicks said the commission has $111,041.38 in checking, $110,012.72 in money market and $2,160,343.67 in CD, totaling $2,381,399.77. Dicks asked if the commission would allow her to spend up to $300 on a keyless lock and other office equipment and Merry moved to establish an office supplies account with $1,000 in it. The commission unanimously approved the motion.

“We will add to it if it’s needed,” Merry said.

“I don’t think we would need to,” Dicks said. “I think that will be plenty.”

Dicks then asked the commissioners for a motion allowing her to transfer funds from the money market account to the hospital accounts without having a meeting, saying it would make it easier to help the hospital when needed. Dicks said the hospital costs about $400,000 a month to run and House asked if she wanted to put a limit on the amount of money to transfer.

“I couldn’t put a dollar amount, knowing where we’re at,” Dicks aid.

Dicks moved that the commission can transfer money as needed to the hospital account with two signatures and without a special meeting. The commission unanimously approved the motion.

The commission’s next regular meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, April 20, at 25 Norris St. in Eureka Springs.

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