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Bullhook health center prepared to help during COVID crisis


March 17, 2020

Havre Daily News/Jack Lambert

A pile of supplies Bullhook Community Health Center has for use during the COVID-19 outbreak are gathered on a desk Monday at the ceenter.

Bullhook Community Health Center officials said the center has made preparations for COVID-19 and stands ready to support Northern Montana Health Care in the coming weeks.

Bullhook is following its infectious disease protocol, sanitizing every hard surface, and taking extra care to make sure employees are doing all they can to minimize risk of spreading the virus. They are also screening everyone with normal appointments for upper-respiratory issues and asking questions about their recent out-of-state travels and will refer them to NMHC when necessary.

"We are asking the patients that are coming in for appointments to limit the number of people coming with them, just as a precaution," Bullhook CEO Kyndra Hall said.

Hall said the primary reason they're looking to support NMHC is because its the only hospital in the area with access to the testing kits necessary for identifying the virus.

"We're trying to be united as a community, so we are not gonna duplicate services. We are going to support the command center at the hospital," Bullhook Medical Department Manager Desiree Norden said.

Hall and Norden said that NMHC have a limited number of kits, so they will only refer high-risk cases to the Triage Center. This high-risk designation is based primarily on whether the patient in question has traveled out of state recently.

"If you've been at your house in Havre, Montana, for the last three months you're not high risk," Norden said.

She added that those who have been in contact with someone confirmed to have had the virus will be considered high-risk regardless of the recent travel history.

Norden said Bullhook may have to cut back some of its normal services in the event that the virus makes it to Havre. She said the facility may need to limit dental care and mental health care to minimize the risk of spreading the virus.

Hall said one of the biggest concerns she, and the center, have is the spread of misinformation regarding the virus.

"I think there's a lot of misinformation out there," she said.

Hall and Norden said the center's biggest concern at the moment is giving people accurate information. To that end, they are referring as much as they can to NMHC when it comes to local concerns.

"We're trying to help funnel everything to them, so everybody is getting the same consistent message...," said Norden, "We just want to help the community all be on the same page."

However, Hall said, those with general questions about the virus should go to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, which she said remains the most reliable source of information.

Hall and Norden echoed much of the advice given by the CDC and other health organizations; wash hand thoroughly for 20 seconds especially before and after going out of the house, don't touch their face, sneeze and cough into a tissue or elbow, try to maintain six feet of social distance, and travel as little as practically possible.

They said this social distancing is especially important for the elderly and people with suppressed immune systems, who are at higher risk of death from the virus.

"I think it's important to note that the virus is not airborne," Norden said.

She added that the virus is transmitted through contact and droplets of liquid contained in coughs and sneezes, which is why social distancing is especially important.

Hall and Norden also said healthy individuals should be careful as well, because even if they don't have the symptoms, they can carry the virus and potentially give it to those with suppressed immune systems. Norden said everyone should focus on keeping their immune systems in good shape regardless.

"Stay hydrated, stay rested, keep your immune system up," she said.

Hall and Norden said this is a particularly poor time of year for this virus to show up because there are many upper-respiratory afflictions with similar symptoms to COVID-19 going around in Havre. This includes the flu, pneumonia and respiratory syncytial virus. They urged people with symptoms to stay home and treat themselves with their preferred over-the-counter remedies.

"If you do feel like you're not well enough to be home, call the hospital's hotline," said Norden.


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