There currently are no COVID-19 patients hospitalized at Fort HealthCare and temporary restrictions placed on elective surgery and outpatient procedures are being lifted, health-care officials said Wednesday.
Following the release of Governor Tony Evers’ Badger Bounce Back plan for Wisconsin, the Fort Atkinson-based health system will schedule non-high-risk patients for as soon as Monday, May 11.
“This is great news for patients who have placed their care plans on hold due to COVID-19,” said Fort HealthCare President and CEO Mike Wallace.
“We’re able to lift restrictions due to the low COVID-19-transmission rate within our community and all the safety measures we have in place,” said Wallace. “However, our new normal is that we now live with the COVID-19 virus. As people resume activities, we may see a spike in the virus, and we will always side on protecting our patients, health-care workers and community by returning to more restrictive policies and protocols. Fort HealthCare will remain prepared at all times to handle a surge and care for our community and surrounding area.”
As of now, Fort HealthCare does not have any coronavirus patients hospitalized. But Marie Wiesmann, vice president of nursing services, said this does not mean it could not get one or that it is changing restrictions.
All people who come into the hospital must wear a mask. If they don’t have one, the hospital will provide one. About 2,500 cloth masks were made in the community and donated to the hospital, she noted.
People may call to schedule appointments to see a doctor and make appointments for elective procedures.
“People put off their health care for two months. We are slowly going to call those people back and engage them back into the organization,” she said. “And hopefully people are not afraid.
“This is the cleanest place on Earth. Safety is No. 1,” Wiesmann added.
She did caution, however, that patient visitors will continue to be limited.
“We are, at this point, still restricting visitors to the best of our capacity,” said Wiesmann. “This does not mean no one is allowed in the building. But we are trying to limit people walking in the door.”
Restrictions include limiting laboring mothers to one visitor per patient and similar restrictions for other patients.
Like some hospitals, Fort HealthCare did not fully restrict visitors, but limited them during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Meanwhile, other hospitals around the state also have eased some restrictions, including UW-Health in Madison.
“Our team is ready to deliver safe care to all patients,” Wallace said. “We continue to follow all Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, The American College of Surgeons, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Wisconsin Department of Health and the Wisconsin Hospital Association safety guidelines.”
Safety protocols put in place regarding care include, but are not limited to:
• All individuals entering Fort HealthCare facilities, including team members, will continue to be screened for COVID-19 symptoms and temperature monitoring.
• All individuals entering Fort HealthCare facilities will be asked to don a cloth face covering. Patients may bring their own face covering or may opt to wear one supplied by the health system if they do not have one.
• All care team members will wear surgical masks and protective eyewear, as well as other necessary personal protective equipment (PPE), at all times when caring for patients.
• Visitors still will be prohibited unless they meet exclusion criteria.
• Six-foot social distances will be established in public areas such as waiting rooms.
• Extra cleaning and disinfection of high-touch, public surface areas will continue.
• Infectious patients will continue to be cared for in isolation, away from non-infectious patients.
Wallace noted that Fort HealthCare always has had the safety of patients and employees top of mind, as evident in the accolades the organization has received recently, including an “A” rating for safety by the Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade, the 5-Star ranking in the Medicare Hospital Compare performance measure, a Top 100 Rural & Community Hospital award by The Chartis Center for Rural Health and the three year accreditation from the Joint Commission recognizing safe and high quality care.
To remain prepared, Fort HealthCare will maintain a sufficient supply of PPE, as well as other resources necessary to care for COVID-19 patients, Wallace said. In addition, the health system will collaborate with local clinics and the Department of Health to continually evaluate incidences and trends of COVID-19 cases within Jefferson County and the surrounding area.
“Safety is our top priority,” said Wallace. “Our services may look a little different in the new normal, but our commitment to our mission and vision remains the same.”
Patients who wish to schedule their elective surgery or outpatient procedure should first visit with their appropriate provider.
To learn more about the services at Fort HealthCare and Fort Memorial Hospital, please visit forthealthcare.com.