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Sidney Health Center Adjusts to New Normal in 2020


December 30, 2020 | View PDF

Sidney Health Center charge nurse, Yvette Lien, prepares the Emergency Department during the COVID pandemic. (Photo submitted)

In 2020, Sidney Health Center found itself adjusting to a "new" normal as the coronavirus pandemic worked its way across the nation to rural Montana. Living in a rural area proved to be a blessing as it gave area clinics, hospitals and long-term care facilities time to stock up on personal protective equipment, learn from larger tertiary centers affected by the coronavirus, and get policies and procedures in place.

"Adjusting to the new normal has been a phrase repeated continuously since March and it is easier said than done," stated Jen Doty, Sidney Health Center CEO. "We have all been tasked with trying to respond to an ever-changing situation where the 'new normal' is uncertainty with no clear end date and information is rapidly changing. I am proud of our team's response to the pandemic and for their resiliency, collaboration, and creativity."

To say the least, patient care delivery is looking a little different from pre-COVID times. Many safeguards were implemented in 2020 to minimize the exposure risks related to coronavirus (COVID-19) for patients, residents and staff.

Screening: All visitors and staff are screened upon entering the building, using screening tools designed to identify their health status before entering Sidney Health Center facilities or providing care.

Personal masking: Personal masking is required for all who enter the facility to protect you and others from the spread of infectious disease like COVID-19. Wearing a mask helps prevent respiratory droplets from traveling to other people and it protects you against respiratory droplets from others. You have the power to stop the spread in three simple steps: Keep six feet apart, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds, and wear a mask.

Same-Day Clinic: The walk-in clinic transitioned to a same-day clinic. Patients needing immediate medical attention (not an emergency) are instructed to call 406.488.3963 to schedule a same-day appointment. This avoids long wait times at the clinic and patients can stay in the comfort of their home until they can be seen.

Testing for COVID-19: Since the onset, Sidney Health Center has worked closely with the Richland County Health Department to provide COVID-19 testing for individuals, who are identified through contact tracing and exhibiting symptoms. Symptomatic patients are also tested in the clinic and ER settings. As an extra precaution, patients having elective surgical procedures are tested for COVID-19 prior to their surgery and the long-term care facilities test. their staff and residents routinely.

Cleaning and disinfecting: The environmental services team performs rigorous disinfecting measures throughout the hospital, clinic and extended care facilities. UltraViolet disinfecting lights are used to clean patient areas and air filtration systems are stationed in common areas across the organization to continually scrub the air.

Like all healthcare facilities across the region, Sidney Health Center began to feel the strain of meeting the demand for those seeking medical attention for a variety of conditions in the fall of 2020. It is true, the uptick of COVID-19 cases in the midwest directly impacted census capacities for area hospitals. As a critical access hospital, Sidney Health Center is licensed for 25 inpatients, including 16 beds on the medical/surgical wing, 3 beds in the critical care unit and 6 beds in the maternity ward.

Prior to the impact of COVID-19, the daily inpatient census at Sidney Health Center averaged 14 patients in the hospital per day. Since October, the census has averaged 21 inpatients per day and reached as many as 30 inpatients at times, forcing the facility to operate at surge-capacity.

To accommodate the influx of patients, Sidney Health Center has renovated rooms on the south hall of Extended Care to get them up and operational. The newly remodeled rooms are used for quarantining new residents upon admission as well as for patient overflow from the hospital. Swing bed patients that are transferred to the south hall at Extended Care continue to be counted in the daily hospital census.

In addition, Sidney Health Center has increased its inventory of hospital beds to double up patients on the medical/surgical wing. Hospital beds are also set up in the outpatient surgery area to be utilized for inpatient surgery patients requiring 24-48 hour post-op care.

Plans continue to adapt and evolve as the patient scenarios change on a daily basis. With all these precautionary measures in place, Sidney Health Center's mission remains the same – to help you achieve your highest level of health and well-being.


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