Havre Daily News - News you can use

Local health facilities dealing with COVID-19 crisis


Havre Daily News/Jack Lambert

Northern Montana Hospital stands in snow March 15, with all doors except its emergency department locked and no visitors allowed. Northern Montana Health Care and other local health providers are dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.

As of Tuesday, Northern Montana Health Care has tested 18 people for the coronavirus, COVID-19.

NMHC public relations officer Julianne LaSmith said one person has tested positive, 16 people received negative results and one result is pending. 

"Our flu clinic numbers continue to rise as more people are being referred there," she said.

The decision to test has to come from a doctor, she added.

"The testing is done as a way of determining the next course of action," she said. "It is entirely up to our providers that are seeing the people in the flu clinic as to which ones will be tested, but it's not something that someone can request."

As of this morning's 8 o'clock update on the state COVID-19 update map, Montana has 208 confirmed cases including the single Hill County case and one case in Liberty County.

Chouteau and Blaine counties did not have confirmed cases as of this morning's update.

LaSmith said the shelter-in-place directive that Gov. Steve Bullock announced Thursday is what NMHC has already requested people to do and has been asking people to stay home as much as possible. 

"Stay home, wash your hands and call if you need us," LaSmith said.

For a regular clinic visit or inquiry, people should call the Northern Montana Family Medical Center at 265-5408 or the Northern Montana Specialty Medical Center at 265-7831. 

If they are feeling ill with flu-like symptoms - sore throat, cough, fever, difficulty breathing and so on - they should call the flu clinic at 262-1570. They will then be directed on how to proceed. 

After hours, they can call Northern Montana Hospital at 265-2211 and ask to speak with the administrative director on call and they will be advised as to their next steps.

The only access to the hospital is at its Emergency Department, and NHMC is asking people only to use that for life-threatening issues.

LaSmith said employees are being reassigned to fit Northern Montana's Health Care's needs during this time.

"For example, we're no longer doing elective surgeries. So those nurses are reassigned to an area that needs them instead," she said. "We are staffing an additional clinic, flu clinic, at this time so there's plenty of work for everyone."

The Flu Clinic has extended its hours to the weekend. Saturday and Sunday it will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and  Monday through Friday it is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

It is located on the east side of the NMHC campus in the building formerly known as Medical Group East. 

A release from NMHC said that patients who feel that they may need to be assessed by a health care professional are asked to report to the parking lot of the clinic at 124 13th Street and then to call 262-1570.

Other health care facilities are preparing their services for the coronavirus.

Havre's Bullhook Community Health Center is not under lockdown. 

The facility is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The Dental Clinic is open from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and its Behavioral Clinic is open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The pharmacy is open from 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 pm Monday through Thursday and 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Fridays. 

"Dental is open to emergent (and) urgent dental issues only. Patients can call in to be triaged," Bullhook CEO Kyndra Hall said. "The Behavioral Health providers are still seeing patients, mostly through Telehealth video or telephone visits. Medical is still seeing patients, if the visit can be done by telehealth by video we are, otherwise we are still seeing patients in person.

"We are limiting the patients coming into the facility to limit the exposure to the patient and to the staff," Hall added. "All patients are being screened for COVID-19 symptoms when they schedule their appointments, when their appointments are confirmed and when they enter the facility."

At this time, she said, they  are referring patients up to the Northern Montana Health Care Flu Clinic if they have any COVID-19 symptoms and are screening patients for COVID-19 symptoms when they schedule an appointment.

She said anyone entering the facility for an appointment, delivery, or picking up outgoing shipments or pharmacy will be screened at the front door.  

She added that patients will also have their temperature taken and will be asked:

• Do they have symptoms of an upper respiratory infection such as, sore throat, cough, nasal secretion with or without a fever? 

• Have they traveled out of Hill County in the last two weeks?  If so, where? And why?

• What is the reason for their visit today?

Bullhook has implemented procedures to minimize exposure to its employees and patients, Hall said.

The number of patients are being limited in the pharmacy to one person at a time, she said, and Bullhook is offering patients options to get their prescriptions whether through curbside, delivery and mail.

She added that anyone coming into the facility should practice the continuation of social distancing, and 6-foot marks are made on the floor to keep everyone spaced out if they need to come in and chairs marked off in the waiting room to maintain distance.

"We are asking if it is a minor child being seen, they only have one parent (or) legal guardian with them for their appointment. If an adult patient is coming in they will be encouraged to attend their appointment alone, but will be allowed one caregiver (or) support person to accompany them if needed," Hall said.

She said, Bullhook is adequately staffed and is working on making sure it has adequate personal protective equipment supplies.

They are working on obtaining more face shields, goggles, gowns and hair covers, she added.

"We are continuing to treat patients who are not showing any symptoms of COVID-19," Hall said.

At Sweet Medical Center in Chinook, Site Director Allison Gray said, the medical center is not on lockdown; however, they do ask that patients call before coming in.

"We are screening patients for respiratory illnesses (and) travel when they call to make appointments and again when they walk in the door," she said. "We are screening patients on the phone and in person when they get to the clinic. We do normal (or) routine health screenings for patients and we promote and schedule additional health screenings as needed."

She said the clinic in Chinook is open 7:15 a.m. to 5:45 p.m., and the Harlem clinic is closed until further notice to help protect the residents at the Little Rockies. 

 The clinic is trying to see all "well" visits in the morning and all "sick" visits in the afternoon, she added. 

"We are treating all of our patients accordingly," Gray said. "We are staffed adequately."

The clinic is in need of gowns and masks, she said. 

"Our normal operations are disrupted at this time, but we will do the best we can to meet their needs," she said. 

In Chester, Liberty Medical Center is accepting essential patients only and necessary outpatient services are still functioning with limited patient volume, Director of Outpatient Service April Malan said.

"We are currently staffed at an adequate level and are watching our personal protective equipment level closely, but are in need of eye shields( or) goggles and disposable gowns," she said. 

The clinic is not treating anyone for COVID-19 at the moment, she said, but they do provide screening via telephone and in person 24/7 at their facility. 

  She added that the clinic has also arranged for a separate COVID-19 treatment area separate from the rest of the organization and continue to focus on isolation to keep their community safe.  

"Thus far, we have been successful in our small community in being proactive in our approach," Malan said.

The hours of the Liberty Medical Center are Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.


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