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Eastern Plumas Health Care experiences dramatic uptick in covid cases


At the Thursday, May 26 meeting of the Eastern Plumas Health Care Board of Directors the meeting opened with the news that covid numbers have been rising in the area once more.

Staff reports- Covid outbreak

Michelle Romero of Infection Control opened with the news that “Covid cases have exploded in the month of May unfortunately. Our case rate is 27 percent, where it was only four percent in April. We are seeing a lot of positive tests.”

She went on to report that the hospital was experiencing an outbreak in both skilled nursing facilities in Portola and Loyalton, with 29 staff members out since the beginning of May due to covid. “This has impacted almost every department pretty severely,” Romero said. “It’s not looking good right now.”

Director Linda Satchwell asked if the cases were less severe, and Romero stated that the community cases were less severe, with fewer hospitalizations than were seen with the Delta variant.

“We are taking extra precautions and starting this week we will move all meetings to 100 percent virtual to prevent any spread until we get this under control,” Romero added.

Donna Dorsey reported on behalf of the chief nursing officer, stating that EPHC had been remaining busy. “The floor is very full,” she said. “We also had a meeting yesterday about an MRI machine, which is very exciting.”

Director of Nursing Lorraine Noble then reported that since there had been a covid outbreak, she could not take any admits until the hospital has been clear for two weeks.

“The nursing assistant class was completed on May 16 and a staffing waiver has allowed us to put them to work as nursing assistants,” Noble added with a smile. “We have seven people around suddenly helping that we didn’t have before. They started working on May 19 and will all test for their certifications in June, we hope. The Red Cross has shut down all of their testing centers, so that makes things a little more complicated.”

There will be a $2500 sign-on bonus for the students who sign up to work for EPHC full-time.

Noble also noted that the state had come in and done their annual survey in the last week, with the “best survey we’ve had in 20 years.”

When it comes to a breakdown in numbers of residents with covid at the SNF locations, there were reported to be 12 covid patients in Loyalton, with ten of the residents having recovered and two in the red zone. In Portola there were seven residents that had come down with covid, and one in the red zone.

“In Loyalton, 11 staff members have come down with covid, and nine of them were actually nurses’ aides, so it’s been pretty tough staffing the last couple of weeks. This all happened after Mother’s Day, so visitation has not stopped. We are screening everyone as they come in and have to stay six feet away, in addition to mask wearing,” Noble said.

The residents have been divided into zones- green, red, and yellow. Residents at the SNF that are in the yellow zone have not had covid during this outbreak and are confined to their rooms, with staff donning full PPE entering and leaving the room. The same PPE rule applies for the red zone folks as well. “I’m very concerned about having any group meetings. Right now, I feel like this will be going on for weeks and weeks,” Noble said. “We cannot admit until we are free of covid for two weeks. It’s terrible. I really want to stress that I don’t want groups of people meeting in the skilled nursing units.”

Noble stated that she felt like they would get through this and then “be in the same boat in three months.”

McCoy recommended that the community continue to take precautions, adding, “We are seeing that positivity and transmission rate continue to trend up fairly significantly. I think the masking is pretty low in the general public.” McCoy asked the general public to protect themselves.

“I’m very proud of the staff, they have been doing a great job through all of this,” Noble concluded.


Human resources

Chief executive officer Doug McCoy reported on behalf of Human Resources Director Lori Tange, speaking about

about recruitment retention, sharing that since January 1 of this year there had been 18 separations but gained eight members of staff with the 26 new hires.

Annualized turn over through the first five months of 2022 is 16.6 percent, with the national average running at 25.9 percent.

“Our focus has been employee engagement and retention,” McCoy added. 28 percent of those separations were per diem employees, so that is about one third of the total. This has had no significant impact on vacancies as it would have if they were full-time employees.

About 28 percent were also due to relocation. With other separations, McCoy reported that housing options locally and increased cost of living have increased relocations.

“56 percent of these separations were people we had no ability to impact,” he added. “11 percent were involuntary, where we chose to separate from the employee.”

30 percent of separations were per diems in the nursing department.

“We’re not seeing any specific department trends. When it comes to the eight new CNA students that graduated last week, I think at least half plan to go on to LVN or RN programs, and we are excited to support them.”

Lab staffing continues to be a key challenge. It is fully staffed but it is primarily traveler staff, which is pretty consistent throughout California at this challenging time.


Finance report

Chief Finance Officer Katherine Pairish reported on the ten months ended April 30, 2022 compared to the ten months ending on April 30, 2021.

Total year to date revenues were over last year by $5,970,798, which is an 18 percent increase over last year. Inpatient revenues were over last year by $2,282,962 and total operating expenses were over last year by $3,966,868 or 16 percent.

Director of Clinics Paul Bruning reported that a retinal camera for diabetic retinopathy had been provided by a grant and put to use, as well as starting in-office prescribing. “Urgent access has been very busy, we are at 20-21 same-day appointments and we are looking at expanding that even further,” Bruning said.

The hunt is still on for a general contractor for the Loyalton clinic.


CEO report

CEO Doug McCoy reported that there had been a lot of activity with their service excellence program, Ignite the Patient Experience, in the last 30 days, with 14 outstanding staff members stepping up to go through “quite a bit of training.”

Erica Johnson briefly reported that she and other employees were very excited to move forward with the program. The program will be rolled out to all EPHC employees, with a ‘really good pool of frontline employees’ really excited to be a part of the initiative.

The mandatory training will roll out starting June 21 through August, with four teams presenting classes to various groups, with groups, dependent upon covid protocol on both campuses.

“All of our service excellence advisors have been excellent, and we thank them,” McCoy said. “It’s really exciting to see the enthusiasm.”

McCoy also noted that there was plan approval for the Loyalton clinic, but the challenge had been finding contractors. “Paul Bruning is really leading that process,” he said. “The auxiliary is very interested in looking towards the purchase of a state of the art 3-D mammogram machine, which is also great. We are very thankful anytime they assist us.”

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