Maintaining Staffing Levels During a Pandemic
As COVID-19 positive numbers increase in our communities and many persons require inpatient services, our own workforce – nurses, physicians, technicians and more – are also impacted by the virus. Hospitals across Kansas and the nation are facing an unparalleled pandemic situation: fighting a virus in patients while staff also are affected.
“Our longstanding commitment to safety precautions have led us this far without a single incidence of transmission following known contact with a positive patient or employee in our facilities,” said LMH President & CEO Russ Johnson. “The reality of this pandemic suggests that at some point, that will change. As staffing is paramount to delivering care—especially during periods of surge—we are following all CDC recommendations to protect our patients and caregivers while meeting the needs of our community.”
As we enter a surge phase of COVID-19 care, LMH Health is relying on the expert advice of our three board-certified infectious disease physicians, as well as KDHE and CDC, to establish two formats to ensure that clinicians are available to care for our patients and community at this most vulnerable time. These formats all pertain to employees who are on quarantine, which means they have potentially been exposed to COVID-19, but have not tested positive. The formats, which are aligned with CDC recommendations, include:
- Quarantine: Staff members in this category are not working onsite in our hospitals or clinics. Quarantine may result from an inability to isolate from a COVID-positive person or PUI (person under investigation), or from having close contact with a COVID positive person or PUI.
- Modified quarantine: Staff members in this category are deemed to be essential to hospital operations, and it is imperative they conduct their work on site. To be eligible for this category, employees must be able to separate themselves from the person that’s positive or is a PUI. While at work, they must wear PPE and eye protection at all times, take meal or hydration breaks alone, report even one symptom, log all patient and staff interactions, and travel from home to work only.
“Our teams at LMH Health have done an exceptional job in employing mitigation efforts, and as a result, we are much better positioned than many other hospitals around the country, some of which are only able to meet patient care needs by deploying COVID-positive employees back into the workforce,” said Johnson. “Currently, we do not have any staff members who have tested positive for COVID working in our facilities or engaging in patient care. We know this may change. If that happens, we will follow all CDC and KDHE recommendations for personal protective equipment, social distancing, screening and hand hygiene. This enables us to protect our patients and staff while we continue to provide life-saving care for our community.”
Given the anticipated toll on staffing, LMH Health Human Resources is currently undergoing a review of all staff to determine how we might redeploy team members with key training and capabilities. They have also reached out to recently retired staff and have added staff through agencies in order to provide help and relief for team members who are working long hours.
Throughout the pandemic, LMH Health has closely monitored and adhered to these safety precautions:
- Following infection prevention recommendations from our infectious disease physician team, KDHE and the CDC.
- Screening and masking all patients, employees – both contracted and employed - and providers upon arrival
- Requiring masks to be worn by everyone at all times in our facilities
- Restricting visitors to the hospital and clinics
- Using Telehealth for patient appointments wherever possible
- Providing regular reminders to staff about infection prevention protocol and procedures
- Monitoring supply levels for personal protective equipment (PPE)
Additionally, LMH Health provides direct and timely communication with our teams to ensure awareness around the latest recommendations.
Patients who have questions about their care within our hospital and our facilities can contact their provider’s office to learn more.