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CHI Saint Joseph Health Responds to COVID-19 Pandemic

By Dan Goulson, MD, CMO, CHI Saint Joseph Health, and
Travis Sewalls, MD, CMO, Saint Joseph Hospital, Saint Joseph East, Saint Joseph Jessamine

Dr. Dan Goulson is Chief Medical Officer at St. Jospeh Hospital, 1 St. Jospeh Drive, in Lexington, Kentucky. Photograph by Rich Copley.
Travis Sewalls, MD, CMO CHI Saint Joseph Hospital, Saint Joseph East, Saint Joseph Jessamine

As the number of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases grew across Kentucky, our team of physicians, nurses, therapists, Infection Prevention and Control teams, and other staff throughout our hospitals shifted into a higher gear to ensure we could continue to provide the highest level of care for our patients.

We have dealt with infectious diseases before, and similar to those instances involving Ebola, SARS and MERS in the past, our facilities are working with our public health departments at the state and local levels, as well as with local governments. As part of CommonSpirit Health, we had the added benefit of belonging to a national health care system. CommonSpirit Health convened an enterprise-level task force dedicated to COVID-19 preparedness that is working to ensure our caregivers are educated and safe and have access to the equipment they need to care for our patients. Physicians from CHI Saint Joseph Health actively participate in advising CommonSpirit on COVID-19 issues.

Our leadership team meets daily for status updates as we prepare for an anticipated surge in COVID-19 patients and a slow return to normal operations. In Lexington, we work in collaboration with the other hospital systems in preparing a community response that will benefit everyone in Fayette and surrounding counties.

Because safety is our highest priority, we established a central location on our intranet for staff on everything from information about algorithms for care to patient education resources so they will have easy access to the tools they need to address the current challenges. We also provide a daily update for our entire team with information about PPE, HR matters related to COVID-19, uplifting messages of support from the community, and videos of gratitude from our board and leaders across the system, among other important topics.

It has been a time of change as we navigate this uncertain time. We instituted a “no visitor” policy and are requiring everyone entering our hospitals and clinics – including health care providers – to stop for a screening and temperature check, and to receive a mask to wear in the facility. That comes as a result of the evolving regulations from governing bodies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and our desire to ensure the safest possible environment for our patients, staff and community.

In addition, we have expanded telehealth options not only in the CHI Saint Joseph Medical Group physician offices and clinics, but also for our inpatient care. The virtual care model allows our providers to conserve valuable PPE when rounding on hospital patients who are positive or suspected positive for COVID-19.

While we had the benefit of the experience in places like Washington and New York, we also recognize the fear that experience has created, even among nurses, physicians and other health care workers. Regardless, our providers are in our hospitals every day with a positive attitude of hope and compassion for all our patients, including those who have been diagnosed with COVID-19.

We are humbled by the spirit of caring from our dedicated teams at Saint Joseph Hospital and Saint Joseph East – and all throughout CHI Saint Joseph Health.