NCH Coronavirus Response Update from President Gary Shaw | March 17, 2020
In these days and trying times, communication is very important. I wanted to reinforce things that are already out on our website at Nantucket Cottage Hospital. Please go to there for current information and updates.
First, I want to say that I am very proud to be working with a group of individuals at the hospital and the Town that represent emergency services and preparedness. They are taking what we are facing right now extremely serious and working in great partnership with the hospital and it’s very much appreciated. But as you know, we are in an unprecedented situation in our community and our nation is dealing with a global pandemic, so I wanted to brief the community on what we have done here at Nantucket Cottage Hospital and what we will be doing in the future.
First, you may already know, access to the hospital is now restricted to the Emergency Department so that we only allow people in through the ER once they have been screened. All of our other doors within the building, even for our staff members, have been locked and we are deferring our patients to the Emergency Room for screening. We have cancelled all non-urgent appointments and elective procedures. We have set up a drive through evaluation site for patients experiencing respiratory illness but this is not a voluntary testing site and we ask that patients don’t come to Nantucket Cottage Hospital if they do not feel sick. If you do feel sick it’s also important to call us first so we can give you some guidance on how to handle your illness and arrive. On testing, I know there are questions out there about this. Testing capacity has been limited, not just on Nantucket, but in all of Massachusetts and across the country. Like other hospitals, we are able to take specimens from patients who meet criteria, which is constantly changing per the CDC, and then send it to the lab to be tested. We have tested patients in our community but as of today I am happy to confirm that we have no confirmed cases. However, we all need to be acting as if the virus is already here and taking every precaution and staying home as much as possible.
So, what is our reality? Our island’s new hospital is an amazing community hospital designed for routine everyday care and standard surgeries, procedures, diagnostics, and obstetrics. It is not built for a global pandemic and no hospital is. We do not have an intensive care unit at Nantucket Cottage Hospital and we have limited number of ventilators. We are working with limited medical resources and personnel on our small island. We will of course provide care to anyone who walks through our doors who needs us, and our Emergency Department team is an excellent group of physicians, nurses, techs and support personnel that has been preparing for this situation for weeks. But if we do have critical patients who need access to an intensive care unit, there is a very real possibly that if we see a surge of cases of Covid-19, we may not be able to be transfer by MedFlight helicopter to Boston hospitals because most likely they will be at capacity with their own patients at that time as well. That is simply our reality.
So, what can you do and what precautionary measures can you take? We need everyone in this community to take this extremely seriously right now. Stay home as much as possible and limit contact with people as much as possible. We are discouraging any play dates, parties, sleepovers, or families visiting one another during this national crisis. We are encouraging individuals to take walks or runs outside but to maintain a distance ideally of six feet between other people when do you go outside. Reduce the frequency of going to the grocery store as much as possible. If you do go, clean anything you touch and clean your hands thoroughly as you head home. And if you feel sick, absolutely, stay home as I mentioned before and contact Nantucket Cottage Hospital for further guidance on how to arrive so we can help you. We understand there is a lot built into these suggestions, and they represent a real burden for residents, families and businesses, but this is what we all need to be doing today. I make these comments not to scare or create fear in our community, but to create a reality that for most of us in our lives, we’ve never faced anything as serious as this. Please take it seriously. Thank you.