Bassett Healthcare Network Outlines Response to Cases of COVID-19

Bassett Healthcare Network outlined the health system’s plans today for responding to the new coronavirus now that there are confirmed cases locally. That response includes a new phone line – 607-547-5555 – specifically for people who are concerned they may have symptoms of COVID-19, new visitation restrictions, and a process to safely screen patients for COVID-19 and other upper respiratory illnesses.

Bassett has been been closely monitoring the new coronavirus since it was first declared a public health emergency in January of this year. As the new coronavirus has progressed in the U.S., experts from across all areas of the Bassett health system have been meeting daily to understand the current situation locally and adjust the network’s response. That response is carried out in close cooperation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH), and local county public health departments. 

“This is not unexpected,” notes Bassett Healthcare Network President and CEO William F. Streck, MD. “We have been anticipating and preparing for this new virus to be in our communities. The response plan we are implementing has been carefully considered and planned. Our approach is comprehensive and prioritizes the safety of our patients, our workforce, and the communities in the eight-county region served by the Bassett network.”

A Process for Safely Screening Patients

In addition to new visitor restrictions, Bassett Healthcare Network Chief Clinical Officer, Steven Heneghan, MD, says a process has been developed to safely screen patients and determine if in-person evaluation is needed. “It is critically important that people call ahead to the central phone line we have established. They may not need to be seen in person,” explains Heneghan. “In fact, many people with upper respiratory illness have influenza or a simple cold. We need to prevent unnecessarily exposing our patients and staff and do all we can to contain this new coronavirus.”

Network Response to COVID-19

  • A central phone number – 607-547-5555 – is in place. Bassett patients who are concerned they may have symptoms of upper respiratory illness should call this number.
  • All patients determined to need an in-person visit will be given an appointment and directed to next steps. 
  • Telemedicine capabilities are being expanded to be able to screen more patients remotely, thereby avoiding unnecessary travel and the possible exposure of others to upper respiratory illness. 
  • Visitation has been suspended to all inpatient units at the five hospitals in its network and the network’s long-term care facilities. Extenuating circumstances will be considered. Other restrictions are also in place for the network’s emergency department and other clinical areas. Visit bassett.org or call ahead before travelling.
  •  A coronavirus resource page is available on the network’s public facing website bassett.org.

Visitor Restrictions

With the new coronavirus now present in the region, Bassett Healthcare Network has suspended visitation to all inpatient units at the five hospitals in its network: Little Falls Hospital, Bassett Medical Center in Cooperstown, A.O. Fox Hospital in Oneonta, O’Connor Hospital in Delhi, and Cobleskill Regional Hospital. Extenuating circumstances, such as critical care patients, will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Similar visitor restrictions have also been put in place for the network’s long-term care facilities, Valley Health Services, Valley Residential Services, and A.O. Fox Nursing Home. In addition, new visitor restrictions are in place for the network’s emergency departments and outpatient surgery. The updated visitor restrictions have been posted to the network’s website, bassett.org.

Charles Hyman, MD, senior attending physician in Infectious Diseases at Bassett Medical Center

Charles Hyman, MD, senior attending physician in Infectious Diseases at Bassett Medical Center, says it is important to understand most healthy people who contract the virus will experience mild symptoms. “Those most at risk for severe illness from upper respiratory diseases, like influenza and the new coronavirus, are older adults and those with chronic medical conditions,” explains Hyman. “Our best defense is to stay current with the evolving best practices put forth by the CDC and NYSDOH, and to be as diligent as we can about preventing unnecessary spread of this new virus.”

Symptoms

COVID-19 can cause mild to severe respiratory symptoms similar to influenza, such as:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Trouble breathing

Take Steps to Help Prevent the Spread

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick and stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash and wash your hands.
  • It is best to cough or sneeze into your elbow or upper arm; avoid using your hands. If you do cough or sneeze into your hand, wash your hands immediately.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently-touched objects and surfaces.
  • Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to  others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).