Friends and neighbors,

I want to provide a quick update on what your local medical center is doing regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and our plans for what we believe lies ahead.

Thank you

First, I want to thank this community for your support and concern.


We are grateful for the many dentists, veterinarians, and others who have come forward to share with us their supply of personal protective equipment – PPE — for our caregivers. This is much needed and appreciated — and to be frank — is my number one concern right now.

The thing I worry about the most is being able to protect our caregivers so they can take care of others. We are also grateful for our Volunteers and others who are sewing surgical masks for use in the event we run out of commercial masks.

The pattern and instructions for these masks (thank you, Tater Patch Quilts, Merrill!) is on the Coronavirus resources page.

We are still in need of N95 or N99 respirator masks. In spite of having placed orders for additional supplies weeks ago, our deliveries are still not coming in as needed.

We are grateful for some of our employees and some school district employees who are experimenting with 3-D printing prototypes of these masks for us to try. This is great innovation!

We are also grateful to local restaurants that have brought food and meals to support our employees.

And we are thankful for our teachers and parents who are disrupting their lives to ensure our children remain safe and can still be learning and growing. They are true heroes.

We are going to need ongoing and additional assistance with the children so our caregivers can keep coming to work to take care of everyone.

We are blessed to have our Air National Guard base and the personnel there, who stand ready to support us in any way they can.

And our county commissioners, city government, and public health department – all standing shoulder-to-shoulder with us and helping in any way they can.

We are truly humbled by this community’s outpouring of grace and support. It’s this can-do spirit of collaboration that will get us through this together.

Updates

Here are some updates on what Sky Lakes is doing to fight this pandemic:

Starting Monday, March 23, our flu-symptom testing site will open the parking lot of the Community Health Education Center on Eldorado using portable shelters. Look for the directional signs.

Please continue to coordinate with your health care provider for testing.

This week we will be setting up two military-style tents near the Emergency Department. These tents will nearly double Emergency capacity.

Staff in the Sky Lakes Facilities Department have figured out a way to greatly increase the number of hospital rooms with negative air pressure to better handle infected individuals. Those additional rooms will be ready Monday.

We are also doubling the capacity of our intensive care unit, and cross-training our staff to be able to handle the possible influx of patients.

While still in short supply we believe we have sufficient ventilator capacity for the near term if needed.

Our Information Technology staff are working on ways to allow up to 200 of our employees to perform their duties from home. That transition will start this week as well.

We are also identifying up to 250 staff who normally perform “support services” or “back office duties” who will be cross trained to provide support to our frontline caregivers in the event that is needed.

Testing media – the vials of substance used in lab tests for the coronavirus – remains in short supply. We get a small supply every day, and more and more commercial tests are coming online, but the test media substance is slow to arrive. That means we are still prioritizing testing according to CDC guidelines. Once more widespread testing is available, we will let you know.

What you can do

As a community you should feel very proud of the physicians and staff who work at this medical center. I know I am. They are brave, committed and prepared to step up and take care of this community.

The best thing you can do to support them is to stay home and avoid contact with others.

Please maintain strict 6-foot physical distancing, only go out for essentials such as food and medical supplies, fuel, or to get some fresh air and exercise.

There are some models that predict the so-called “point of no return” for the spread of the disease in Oregon is this week. If we are going to prevent COVID-19 from overwhelming our healthcare system, we need everyone to do their part and avoid the potential spread of this disease.

This means not getting together for play dates or joint family activities at a park or for luncheons and the like. Maintain 6-foot physical distancing, but not necessarily social distance; stay in touch with especially the frail and elderly, and provide support.

Many people are going to be challenged with financial and other pressures – reach out and support one another.

This is not like a fire or earthquake or tornado. It’s a potential disaster we can’t quite see yet.

And since we can’t see it the temptation is to go on with life as normal.

If all of us find a way to sacrifice for the next couple of weeks and avoid contact with others except for essential services, I believe we may be able to avoid the disaster that is playing out in Washington state, California, New York, Italy and elsewhere.

Again, each individual needs to avoid the temptation to think it can’t or won’t happen here, or it doesn’t apply to me.

It will, and it does.

If you want to do something to support us, my personal plea is to stay calm, don’t panic or hoard unnecessary supplies, try to stay home and avoid contact with others – simple but effective measures to prevent this disease from spreading.

Nothing would make me happier than for a couple of months from now to look back and say we didn’t need all these additional resources and nothing really happened.

To me that would mean that we all did our part – we decreased exposure and we saved lives.

What I would hate to see happen is the disaster strikes and we’re left scrambling and wondering why we didn’t act sooner and take it more seriously, or asking ourselves what more could we have done.

We’ve got this Klamath – we can do it.

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