A Message to Our Community from Cottage Health CEO Ron Werft
Thanks to your commitment to safety guidelines of staying at home, social distancing, and masking when necessary, the prevalence of COVID-19 in our communities has remained low relative to many areas around the country. This has resulted in a stable to declining number of patients hospitalized here with COVID-19 in the past two weeks. Thus far, we have avoided the surge of patients that was predicted in early models prior to the guidelines being put into place.
Although the Lompoc federal prison reports that more than 1,000 inmates have tested positive for COVID-19, more than 700 of those have now recovered. The number of inmates requiring hospitalization has been managed by local hospitals without compromising our ability to care for others in need, and the downward trend is very encouraging.
As a result of these trends -- and with the support of state and local public health officers -- after nearly two months of postponing non-emergent cases, physicians are now able to schedule patients in need of elective surgical and other clinical procedures at Cottage Health hospitals.
A great deal of thought and preparation has gone into assuring that we can resume these procedures in a very safe manner. Thanks to many donations, an innovative collaboration among UCSB, local manufacturers, and Cottage, and diligent materials management efforts by Cottage staff, we have secured the necessary personal protective equipment to both protect our staff and provide safe care for more patients. In addition, thanks to the efforts of Dr. Stewart Comer and Pacific Diagnostic Laboratories, we have significantly expanded testing capacity and are now able to conduct COVID-19 testing for all patients prior to their scheduled surgery or specified procedure. As of this week, we are operating at approximately 75 percent of our normal schedule, providing safe medical care for those who need it.
All of us at Cottage Health are grateful for the outpouring of support from our communities. National surveys show a very high level of trust, confidence, and appreciation for physicians, nurses, and hospitals and their response to COVID-19. However, surveys also show that many across the country are fearful about seeking care during this pandemic. On behalf of our medical staff, clinical and support staff, and infectious disease specialists, I assure you that Cottage Health hospitals are extremely safe.
Here are some of the steps Cottage has taken to ensure safety for patients and staff:
- Using specialized care units for patients with COVID-19, separate from those admitted for other conditions, with specific precautions and negative pressure airflow for infection prevention
- Today, we have 5 patients who tested positive for COVID-19. Their care is provided by staff dedicated and trained specifically for and in the isolation unit.
- Importantly, more than 225 patients who tested negative for COVID-19 are safely receiving treatment for other conditions in other areas of the hospitals.
- Pre-screening patients entering the Emergency Department and using isolation precautions if any symptoms are consistent with COVID-19
- Screening with temperature checks of physicians, staff, and anyone who enters the hospitals
- COVID-19 testing for every patient admitted to the hospital, and for every patient prior to a scheduled surgery or procedure
- Masking required for all staff in clinical areas and public areas
- Using protective equipment based on infection control best practices
- Providing staff training and education on COVID-19 care and infection prevention
- Using state-of-the-art disinfectant protocols including UV light filtration on air handlers, Xenex ultraviolet robot for room cleaning, and routine monitoring of hand washing.
With these measures in place, you can trust our health care team and hospitals with confidence. Please do not delay care needed to maintain and protect your health and wellness. Please share this information with others, so those in need do not unnecessarily postpone important medical treatment.
As businesses in the community begin to open in accordance with state guidelines, Cottage will continue to monitor the virus prevalence, incidence, and hospitalization trends. Our systems are now well developed enabling us to quickly make adjustments if community needs change. We are hopeful that our community will continue to responsibly observe social distancing, masking, and avoiding large gatherings.
As we know, the economic consequences of the pandemic have severely impacted many individuals and businesses in our community. For Cottage Health, the additional expenses and revenue loss to prepare for and respond to COVID-19 in March and April has resulted in a negative impact of $34 million. In April, Cottage Health received $17.2 million through CARES Act funds distributed to hospitals. We are hopeful that additional funding will be provided. Thanks to the generosity of our community over many years, Cottage is able to withstand this without compromising the very high standards we uphold.
Thanks to all of you who have donated supplies and funds to support our staff needs. Your donations to the Cottage Emergency Relief Fund have made a real difference in the lives of some of our caregivers whose lives have been impacted, like so many in our community, with the loss of spouse or partner jobs and income loss or unanticipated child care expenses. Thank you for thinking of them at this time.
From all of us at Cottage Health, thank you for your trust and confidence and the very kind expressions of appreciation for our frontline caregivers and the entire health care team working around the clock to respond and care for this community.
President & CEO