The Star-Herald

AR Gould closes some health centers as virus precaution

 

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Northern Light AR Gould Hospital announced on Monday, March 30, that it’s changing protocols in light of the COVID-19 health crisis include the temporary closure and redirected use of its primary care health centers.

“We continue to take the steps we need to so we can best protect our patients, staff and community,” said Jay Reynolds, MD, senior physician executive at the hospital.  “We are also starting to put into place strategies that will help us redirect clinical resources, including our providers, to where they will be most needed in the coming days and weeks.”

One part of that plan includes the temporary closing of some health centers and the redirection of select groups of patients to others.  

“We are trying to keep patients separated as much as possible between those who are more likely to be contagious and those needing regular provider care for other medical reasons.  By sending them to different locations, we are decreasing their chance of exposure while in our care,” Reynolds said. “By temporarily closing our smaller primary care practices, we can move those providers, staff and medical resources to where they are most needed now.”

The following is an overview of the temporary changes which patients can expect starting Monday, March 30.

North Street Health Center (Presque Isle)

Patients needing acute medical care will continue to be seen at Walk-In Care.  The primary care practice will no longer see any patient by appointment but rather will support Walk-In Care patient needs. The pediatrics practice will see only sick children at this location. Lab work at North Street will be limited only to the sick patients being seen at that location.  

Caribou Health Center 

This practice will be dedicated to well pediatric visits only. This includes well-child visits for those under the age of five or other pediatric appointment needs other than a sick child. Well-visits for older children will continue to be postponed at this time. Pediatric lab work for these well visits will be done on site. 

Fort Fairfield Health Center  

All non-potentially contagious adult patients (no fever or associated respiratory 

problems) will be seen at this location.  This includes patients with on-going medical conditions, post-hospital discharges, or any scheduled appointments that have not been postponed.  All routine lab work for adults will be done here or at the lab in the hospital.

Mars Hill Health Center & Women’s Health Center

These two practices will be temporarily closed. 

Telehealth

While the hospital and its primary care practices continue to see sick patients daily, all elective surgeries, procedures and other non-essential patient interactions continue to be postponed.  However, patients will soon see some access improved as efforts for using telehealth between providers and patients gets underway. Telehealth for some patient appointments will be used when it makes sense to do so.  Telehealth began last week with behavioral health and oncology providers but is in the process of expanding into primary care and other specialty areas. 

Visitors

There have also been more changes to the visitor policy at the hospital.  The overall goal is to greatly limit people in and out of the hospital, so visitors are being restricted other than specific exceptions, including: beginning and end of life, pediatrics and special needs. For the complete visitor policy, visit the hospital’s website or Facebook page.  All visitors, except patients going to the emergency room, must enter through the hospital’s main entrance and be screened for COVID-19 symptoms.  

Testing and assessment

AR Gould Hospital began a drive-up test site last week on the hospital campus.  Due to stricter criteria from Maine CDC on who can be tested, the site has now expanded to also include patient assessments.  Patients with COVID-19 symptoms can be seen, triaged, and potentially tested here. Before coming to the site, patients must first call a statewide screening number at 844-489-1822 for an initial phone screening to determine if they need to be seen at this location.

“We ask all patients with respiratory symptoms to first call this statewide screening number before coming to any of our facilities. Based on the results of the phone screening, they will be directed on next steps,” says Reynolds.  “Of course, for a medical emergency they should call 9-1-1 but be sure to notify the operator of the respiratory symptoms.”

These are just a few of the many steps the hospital has taken at this time to protect patients, staff and community, according to Greg LaFrancois, president. 

“We have worked diligently on surge plans, cross-training hundreds of employees to work in areas for which they are qualified but don’t normally work. We have re-allocated resources from across our organization and even clinical areas within our hospital to best meet the anticipated need in the coming days and weeks.  We are working closely with our three fellow Aroostook County hospitals to ensure we are all ready to care for The County.”

Submitted by the Communications Office of Northern Light AR Gould Hospital.

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