Barbara Berg

Barbara Berg, a registered nurse in the perioperative department at Western Arizona Regional Medical Center in Bullhead City, tries on a hand-made mask, donated by a community member, and a faceshield created on a 3D printer by a coworker’s husband. WARMC officials said Tuesday that the hospital has “adequate” personal protective equipment at this time but is gathering supplies in preparation for a possible shortage.

BULLHEAD CITY — Local health care professionals look to other communities and state and federal experts for useful data to make best practice decisions to manage a growing number of COVID-19 cases.

Thus far, there have been seven confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Mohave County. Only one has resulted in hospitalization, according to the Mohave County Department of Public Health.

Brian Turney, Kingman Regional Medical Center chief executive officer, said most infected patients are able to beat the bug. KRMC is the only hospital in the county that has admitted a COVID-19 patient.

“Nationally what they’re seeing is about 80% of the cases are typical, flu-like symptoms and then about 15% are severe and about 5% are extreme,” Turney said. “We haven’t had enough cases to see if ours follow the same pattern.”

Turney said Arizona experts predict cases will peak in this state by the end of April with any hospital patient crush reaching its zenith in May.

Turney expressed hope that local infection and mortality rates will be lower than other communities because residents of Arizona and Mohave County have had more time to implement personal hygiene and social distancing protocols. 

Turney said KRMC has been able to secure a sufficient supply of the important N95 masks health care workers wear to protect themselves.

“We received probably 4,000 to 5,000 additional masks and it looks like we might be able to get some on top of that from the national stockpile and other sources. We think we’ve got another source where we can get 10,000 to 20,000 more,” he said. “I think we’re in better shape than our sister hospitals in New Orleans and New York from an equipment standpoint. We are monitoring that daily but we think we’ve made progress with that. We’re still able to get gowns and those types of things. The part we don’t know is just how big of a surge that we’ll have here in Kingman.”

KRMC established an incident command strategy for managing the virus on March 23. 

Turney said staff is engaged in planning for different scenarios involving different numbers of COVID-19 patients. He said use of the vacant third-story level of the Hualapai Mountain Campus, if necessary, is one possibility being explored.

Western Arizona Regional Medical Center’s leadership also has organized an incident command team, which meets daily, in preparation for a possible surge of COVID-19 patients. 

“All aspects of patient care are being reviewed and attuned as necessary to protect our patients, caregivers and the community,” said Jena Morgan, marketing director at the Bullhead City hospital. “Screening begins as individuals enter the facility. Temperatures and other risk factors will be checked on patients, staff and emergency medical personnel at the facility entrance.”

As any patient suspected of having COVID-19 is identified, the individual is placed in an isolation room and given a medical mask to wear. Only a small care team interacts with the patient.

In addition to isolated treatment rooms, WARMC’s preparations include a screening area outside the emergency department entrance; the establishment of an isolated holding area within the emergency room and an isolated unit of the hospital to care for patients who have the symptoms and testing factors for COVID-19.  

Additional modifications to patient care include temporarily closing the hospital to visitors; moving outpatient laboratory and diagnostic radiology procedures to the WARMC Imaging Center on Hancock Road; daily monitoring of personal protection equipment inventory; monitoring staff exposure to suspected COVID-19 patients; and continuing education of all staff, clinical and non-clinical, on use and conservation of PPE and COVID-19 updates.

Morga said the hospital, in anticipation of additional COVID-19 cases in the Tri-state, is accepting donations of FDA-approved personal protective equipment and supplies, including surgical masks, N95 masks, gloves, gowns, face shields and eye protection.

“While we have sufficient supplies on hand to treat the patients who are now in our care, we are increasing our resources so we are prepared for a potential surge in COVID-19 patients,” Morga said.

The hospital also is accepting lunch-sized paper bags and home-sewn masks.

“We will use the cloth masks as a protector of the surgical masks to extend use,”  said Chief Nursing Officer Emily Stevens. “And, if at any point we are not able to get supplies, these masks can provide a limited protection.”   

WARMC already has received about 150 home-sewn masks from various community members, but could use more.

“We are so appreciative of our community and the ‘hands’ that support us daily,” Stevens said.

For questions, or to arrange for drop off, contact Morga at 763-0282 or email jena_morga@chs.net.

Ryan Perkins, spokesman for Valley View Medical Center in Fort Mohave and Havasu Regional Medical Center in Lake Havasu City, said both facilities have begun measures to help the hospitals treat all patients.

“Both Valley View Medical Center and Havasu Regional Medical Center have tiered emergency response plans,” Perkins said. “They have already implemented zero-visitor restrictions and are screening their providers and staff entering the buildings. Both have strong policies in place to ensure the staff and providers have the personal protection equipment they need.”

He said the hospitals’ response plans are similar to those in place during flu season each year.

“As for the influx, this is similar to the surges we see each influenza season where staff and supply levels increase to care for the needs of the patients,“ he said. “Each facility has mapped out a phased approach to keep patients with respiratory symptoms appropriately cohorted to protect all patients, staff and providers. As the volumes increase, additional phases of the plan are implemented.

“Both Valley View Medical Center and Havasu Regional Medical Center are confident they are prepared when COVID-19 patients start to arrive.”

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