PDH plans for COVID surge; including the use of ventilators

By Debra Moore

[email protected]

Plumas District Hospital is preparing to treat seriously ill coronavirus patients as cases continue to surge in the county and the state. During today’s board meeting, Dec. 16, Dr. Ben Hunt, chief of medical staff, shared that the hospital has ventilators, trained staff and the personal protection equipment (PPE) necessary to do so.

Hunt said as ICU capacity fills up across California and in Nevada, the hospital needs to be prepared. “Plan A is still to transfer, but we need to be ready,” he said.

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He mentioned that two COVID positive patients were being treated at the hospital because they were unable to be transferred.

“We’re fairly focused on being prepared for the COVID surge,” Hunt said, which also could mean eliminating elective surgeries and procedures.

In the clinics

COVID is also impacting clinic visits, with patients now being seen virtually whenever possible. Access can be achieved through the patient portal. Individuals without Internet access or an access device can be accommodated in the hospital parking lot. Those who must be seen in the clinic are asked to wait in their car until they are paged.

Lisette Brown, the chief clinical officer, shared other steps that were being taken to protect customers and staff including increased sanitation; COVID tests prior to medical or dental procedures; a restricted visitor policy; surveillance testing for all employees; and the addition of more air purifiers.

Brown also discussed turning one hall of the hospital into a negative pressure hall, which could then accommodate eight COVID patients in the hospital.

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Vaccinations are scheduled to begin being administered Friday or Monday depending on when the vaccine arrives from Redding. Those on the front line will be given priority, followed by clinic staff.

The board and leadership

After the consolidation of the Plumas Hospital and Indian Valley health care districts, seven board directors oversaw operations. As of Jan. 1, 2021, that number drops to five per LAFCo guidelines. The five will be Andrew Ryback, John Kimmel, Bill Wickman, Valerie Flanigan and Guy McNett. During the Dec. 16 meeting, the board selected Wickman to serve as next year’s president and for McNett to serve as board secretary.

Dec. 15 marked the last board meeting for Directors Mark Satterfield and John Evans. Satterfield will continue in his role as an emergency room physician as well as the Plumas County Public Health Officer.

Hospital JoDee Read, as well as the other directors, thanked Satterfield for his 28 years of dedicated service to the board.

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Program for seniors/physical therapy

The response to Sierra Life Solutions, the new program designed to provide mental health services for area seniors, has exceeded expectations. The program has already received 11 referrals. “Our goal was three,” said Ericka Thompson, the program’s director. Services will begin when building licensing is complete.

The directors approved the purchase of $100,000 worth of physical therapy equipment from Sierra Valley Physical Therapy. The hospital is also working on leases for the two properties currently occupied by the physical therapy provider — one in Greenville and one in East Quincy. The additions will further Plumas District Hospital’s ability to provide therapy services for its patients.