EPHC prepares for vaccine mandate while facing large uptick in Covid-19 cases

The Eastern Plumas Health Care (EPHC) Board of Directors held a regularly scheduled meeting the morning of Thursday, August 26. After a call to order, Chairwoman Gail McGrath noted that at the time of the opening of the meeting, there was not a full quorum for the meeting due to board member absences.

“It’s a crazy time in the world, but I love our little corner,” McGrath said. There was no auxiliary report, which has proven to be difficult to obtain, according to McGrath.

Infection control
Michelle Romero with Infection Control reported, “We are seeing a dramatic increase of positive Covid patients at EPHC, with 72 positive patients just in last month. In July, we tested over 100 patients, 13 were positive.”

Romero said, “The lab is doing an exceptional job processing many tests in-house. Also, our staff testing has changed in the last month, with unvaccinated staff testing twice a week, and vaccinated staff testing once weekly.”

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Other mandates include restrictions for visiting residents. Those who are partially vaccinated or unvaccinated must have a negative Covid-19 test within the last 72 hours to visit. Romero reported that there are eight staff members currently out with Covid-19.

“We all know California mandated all healthcare workers to be fully vaccinated by September 30, and we are continuing to offer vaccines to all employees; Pfizer and JJ are being offered in Portola and Loyalton.” Romero and her team are currently working on a process for drive up testing at the Portola Clinic, with test results to be made available the next day. “We will also bring back provider triage line, and we will begin this process Monday,” she concluded.

Dr. Paul Swanson asked if she was familiar with any information regarding boosters as of yet, and Romero said she is waiting on more guidance from the county. “We hope to have more info by next week,” Romero said. Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Doug McCoy reiterated that the covid uptick has been “significant” and praised Romero and EPHC staff for their hard work.

“We thought the first time around was a heavy lift,” McCoy said. “This time around has been much more significant.” “This is like rolling bowling balls uphill- it’s quite a struggle,” McGrath added. McGrath then addressed the fears of the still unvaccinated and said that she understood it was very hard to overcome but is “critical” for all to get vaccinated.

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CNO report
Chief Nursing Officer (CNO) Penny Holland reported that EPHC had received nine brand new high-tech beds for patient care yesterday, with technology designed to do things such as keep pressure points at bay and even monitor respiration.

“Our new vein finder has been really helpful as well, for patient safety and happiness,” Holland said. Holland also noted Regen-Cov, a monoclonal antibody therapeutic, is on order for patients that might benefit from it.

In addition, two EPHC nurses have been signed up for wound care classes, which will mean certified wound care nurses in both departments.

Skilled nursing facilities
Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNF) Director of Nursing Lorraine Noble reported that four beds were moved from the acute side and moved to the SNF unit.

“The census is at 54 currently, and letters have been sent to all families letting them know about the new visitation guidelines, which means a visitors’ vaccine card in hand to be scanned for filing or getting a negative covid-19 test within the last 72 hours,” Noble explained.

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“Our staff is now at about 50 percent unvaccinated in the skilled nursing unit, so all unvaccinated are required to wear an N-92 mask and be tested twice week. That way, if one person tests positive, we don’t have to quarantine the entire staff,” she said. There are still no residents that have tested positive for the virus at this time.

Human resources department
Human Resources (HR) Director Lori Tange reported that behind the scenes in HR, they are working on creating policies to reflect the upcoming mandate, to ensure that staff and patients remain safe and also remain compliant with mandates.

Staffing has been a huge focus area in the last several weeks, which has been a huge issue, according to Noble. Many critical positions are being filled, but Noble noted that there have been challenges around staffing in recent weeks.

Noble is working on ways to create incentive programs, and noted, “Patty Clawson and I created two radio commercials that will be airing in September.” McGrath congratulated her on all the new hires and incentive program.

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Finance report
Chief Finance Officer (CFO) Katherine Pairish reported on finances for first the month of the fiscal year- July 2021. “Overall net income was $950,357, significantly exceeding budgeted expectations,” Pairish said.

Clinic, inpatient, and outpatient revenues all exceeded budget, while overall expenses went under budget for the month by $10,257. Outpatient revenue continues to increase monthly through strong performance from the Rehabilitation Services Department.

CEO Doug McCoy has seen that from an operations perspective, there has been month over month strengthening of their financial situation, despite the challenges faced with covid-19. “We are providing good services and have room to grow as well,” McCoy said.

“Seneca was able to reopen this past week, which we are so happy about,” he said. He also reported on the assistance and support EPHC was able to provide to Plumas District Hospital (PDH) patients during their first evacuation in over 60 years during the beginnings of the Dixie Fire.

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As far as the vaccine mandate, McCoy noted that they will continue to do staff outreach to minimize as many concerns as possible. “It’s very exciting that we have been able to add so many team members on board,” McCoy said enthusiastically.

McCoy then welcomed Mr. Paul Bruning, who will be joining EPHC as the new Director of Clinics, coming from Florida where he served as the president and CEO for a health care recruiting company. McCoy also welcomed Mr. Charles Donovan, who will be taking the role of EPHC clinical informatics specialist after relocating from New York State.

In terms of the customer service/patient experience initiative, it was launched July 29, which was followed by a virtual program for all staff on ‘empathy and self-care for caregiver heroes. Three additional therapists have been added to the staff on the rehabilitation services team as well. “We are seeing wonderful continued growth,” McCoy said.

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“We’re in challenging times, but the team has really stepped up,” McCoy went on to say. McGrath thanked him for his report and observed that it is a huge time for EPHC to be ‘building credibility in the district’ and commended all for their hard work.

No vote could be taken on any policies, due to a lack of quorum.

Without any public comment, the finance report was given by Swanson briefly. “The main point is that our assets are up $4.5 million in the last year, and it’s kind of ironic that amidst all of the catastrophe, we continue to do well,” he said.

With that, the meeting moved into closed session.