Brookwood system treating 4 COVID-19 patients

By ED HOWELL
Posted 3/31/20

Brookwood Baptist Health System said Tuesday it is treating four positive COVID-19 patients across its system, and Tenant employees were told 401(k) match fundings was postponed and non-essential contractor and vendor spending was being eliminated.

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Brookwood system treating 4 COVID-19 patients

Posted

Brookwood Baptist Health System said Tuesday it is treating four positive COVID-19 patients across its system, and Tenant employees were told 401(k) match fundings was postponed and non-essential contractor and vendor spending was being eliminated.

Meanwhile, the head of Walker Baptist Medical Center in Jasper, which is part of Brookwood and Tenant, said it is taking a number of actions to combat the virus, including making reports to government officials on needs for supplies and testing kits.

Spokeswoman Laura Clark released the number of patients treated in the system, although it did not break down how many patients are in its Jasper facility, if any. It was the first number of COVID-19 patients released to the Daily Mountain Eagle.

"This systemwide number will be updated as the situation evolves. We will also continue reporting to public health officials under established legal reporting protocols and will defer to our local health department and state health officials to release any additional data regarding cases of COVID-19," Clark said.

As of Tuesday at noon, Walker County had 32 positive cases of COVID-19 and no deaths, as reported by the Alabama Department of Public Health. That ranked as one of the highest number of cases in the area and ranked as seventh highest in the state. Jefferson County to the east had 258 cases, leading the state.

As of that time, the state had 951 cases and 13 confirmed deaths from the virus.

Also, the Daily Mountain Eagle has obtained a March 29 letter from Ron Rittenmeyer, executive chairman and CEO of Tenet, which owns the Brookwood system.

"We are facing a growing demand, which is difficult to fully estimate given the changes we see daily. These changes have resulted in significant reductions in our ongoing normal business redirecting our focus to care for COVID-19 patients," Rittenmeyer said, saying the company was committed to providing "uninterrupted support" for its hosptals and care facilities, including patient care and supplies. "Our focus remains on our front-line caregivers as they respond to the potential and actual surge driven by the pandemic.

"As a result of these demands, and after careful and thoughtful consideration, we have decided to postpone funding our 401(k)-match program. We are also eliminating non-essential contractor and vendor spend so we can focus our resources on critical operations. This a prudent and thoughtful set of actions we have seen mirrored by other companies." He said he appreciated the employees' "understanding and patience as we navigate this unprecedented time."

In addition, Clark released a column from Mike Neundorf, chief executive officer of Walker Baptist.

"As the leader of our community hospital, I send this message of dedication to the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. We are all in this together. Everyone has a role to play," he said. "The COVID-19 pandemic is international in scope; but its impact is very personal, extending to every individual and family in our community.

"Our hospitals are on the front lines, including Walker Baptist Medical Center, and our mission remains the same: to protect and enhance the well-being of this community. We will meet this moment. Meeting this moment requires the close partnership of national, state and local entities to ensure we have the resources needed to meet the expected increase of cases in our hospitals.

"It has become the highest national priority to prepare the healthcare system for what could be an unprecedented rise of patients in our facilities. An extraordinary national public-private sector effort is now mobilized to provide hospitals like ours with added resources, such as personal protective equipment (PPE), testing kits, ventilators and other critical supplies. Please know that we are in constant contact with government agencies at all levels to be sure they know our front-line concerns and needs.

Neuendorf said the moment will require "strong action" from each hospital to deal with the health emergency. He said the number of cases in this area is "well below" other areas of the country, but that appropriate action is still required to be ready for what is coming.

"Meeting this moment requires each hospital to take strong action to prepare," he said.

He said among the actions that are needed by hospitals include:

• "Continuing to secure more COVID-19 testing kits through multiple avenues, including public sector agencies and private-sector vendors."

• "Conserving critically needed supplies like personal protective equipment (masks, gloves, etc.)."

• "Postponing non-urgent, medically unnecessary elective procedures to free up space, personnel and equipment to focus on COVID-19 treatment."

• "Modifying visitor access to our facilities to keep patients, caregivers and the public safe."

• "Screening anyone who enters our facilities, including our employees and providers.

Neuendorf said the community has a number of responsibilities in the crisis as well, including adhering to all instructions on social distancing and hygiene, and monitoring one's self and family for symptoms. He said one also needs to understand that "COVID-19 testing is only appropriate for those showing symptoms at this time."

He said local residents should not go to Walker Baptist at the first sign of symptoms.

"Instead, call your doctor for an initial phone consultation. If you do not have a primary care doctor, simply call Walker Baptist Medical Center, and we will have one assigned," Neuendorf said.

Neuendorf said one should understand that that Walker Baptist's decision to postpone non-urgent, medically unnecessary elective surgeries "is in accordance with CDC guidelines and is in the best interest of the collective health of the community."

He also asked the public to adhere to the hospital's visitation policies, which have changed as a result of the pandemic. The hospital's website notes entry into the care sites is being limited and those entering are being carefully screened. From March 19 to April 5, all visiting hours have been eliminated to comply with orders from Gov. Kay Ivey.

"We will be working with families on an individual basis for compassionate care situations, including end of life and maternity," the website said. "During labor and delivery, only one person will be allowed to accompany expectant mothers."

"Please know that we are working around the clock to meet the challenges ahead, to protect our patients and staff, and to care for the community," Neuendorf said in the column. "We continue to work very closely with local, state and national partners to ensure that we are best positioned.

"We thank our doctors, nurses and clinical care team members who work in our hospitals every day. These men and women are heroes in every sense of the word. The coming weeks and months will require every bit of their strength, patience and stamina, and we ask everyone to support our healthcare workers in any way you can.

"Please know we are up to the challenge and prepared to care for this community. We encourage everyone to remain vigilant and positive, and to keep up with the latest information on our websites. Stay safe and God bless."