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Jerry Esker Community Update (9/22/20)

It seems that the rate of COVID-19 infection in the northern part of the State is dropping. Yet, locally it is rising and that concerns me.

Coles, Shelby, Effingham, Cumberland, and Jasper counties are in the State’s warning zone with the COVID-19 rolling seven-day infection rate ranging from 8.7 percent to 11.4 percent. My biggest fear is that with cooler temperatures, people will head indoors and put aside the safety precautions of wearing masks and social distancing. This week 17 people are hospitalized with COVID-19. They are all very ill.

Our Facilities Services staff has retrofitted several rooms to negative pressure rooms for patients with COVID-19. In these rooms, lower air pressure allows outside air into the room, and any air that flows out of the room passes through a filter and is cleaned. This keeps the rest of our patients and staff safe.

My concerns mount as we add to the health equation that flu season is nearly on us. Please get a flu vaccine. In the past, some providers have recommended two flu shots for older adults, but studies have not shown a benefit from getting more than one dose of vaccine during the same influenza season for adults, even among elderly persons with weakened immune systems. Adults over age 65 should receive a high dose vaccine, which is more protective than the standard vaccine in that group.  Although titers can wane late in the season, getting two flu vaccines in one season is not recommended, except for some children between the ages of 6 months and 8 years of age. Children in this age group getting vaccinated for the first time, and those who have only previously gotten one dose of vaccine, should get two doses of vaccine this season—spaced at least four weeks apart. 

A potential bright note is that in the Southern Hemisphere, where the seasons are opposite of the US, countries are reporting far fewer influenza cases. For instance, Chile recorded 1,134 influenza cases this year compared with nearly 21,000 last year. Many other countries are reporting similar numbers. Scientists credit the incredibly low number to its residents continuing to wear masks, social distancing, washing their hands regularly and the existing COVID-19 restrictions that are in place.

Community Testing
In all, we have collected more than 34,200 specimens, and the numbers continue to rise. We were fortunate to be able to purchase a piece of lab equipment called the King Fisher, which will enable us to process our own specimens in high volumes in house. We hope to have it operational by early October. We are very grateful to our laboratory partners who carried the heavy lifting through the first six months of this pandemic.

We continue to offer testing prior to surgery or a procedure. These tests are scheduled from 7 am to noon on Monday, Tuesday, Friday and Saturday.

For community members who are seeking a test, they will continue to pre-register by calling 217 258-7490. Testing times are from 1 to 6 pm, Monday through Friday, and 7 am to noon on Sunday.

There are no out of pocket costs for the test as it is covered by insurance and the Cares Act.

Results
We will continue to call those who have positive results, while those who are negative will receive their results in the US Mail, and the results will be posted to the SBL Patient Portal. If you don’t have a patient portal, you can register at this link -

It is worth repeating. This is a very fluid situation. Every day, scientists learn new things about COVID-19-- how it is transmitted, how to treat it, and how to protect ourselves. We follow the CDC and IDPH guidelines and they change as new information is available. Our promise to the community is that we will continue to be transparent about how we are handling the pandemic locally and provide information as it becomes available.

Stay Healthy,

Jerry Esker
SBL President & CEO

A message from our President & CEO, Jerry Esker (7/30/20)

Every day we are required to submit data to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Illinois Department of Public Health regarding COVID-19 and a variety of other health-related items.

While we experienced some of the lowest COVID-19 transmission rates in early July, our local rates are rising. The Illinois Department of Public Health has divided the state into smaller regions to better reflect the area. We are in Region 6, which stretches from Iroquois County in the north to Clay County in the south and from Macon County to the west to the Indiana border. 

The state measures the transmission level of the virus in terms of a rolling seven-day positivity rate. On average, our rate is around 5 percent. That number is higher than the positivity rate found across the rest of Region 6, and is higher than the state-wide rate. This week, nine people with COVID-19 were ill enough to be hospitalized. It’s a reminder that COVID-19 is spreading in our community. 

When we talk with people who have the virus and ask about their whereabout for tracing purposes, they often say they are very cautious and wear masks when they go to the store. Then they mention that they were with family and friends. People naturally put their guards down among people they know and love. Even in healthcare where we know how real this pandemic is, we remind our employees that wearing a mask, washing hands and social distancing are the three best things we can do to mitigate the virus and stay healthy.

Community Testing
In all, we have collected more than 19,000 specimens. Since early July, community testing has surged evidenced by the vehicles that are backed up from our COVID-19 collection garage to the Loxa Road on the east side of our campus. We’re asking our patients and guests to use alternative entrances to avoid getting in a line of traffic. Additionally, we are changing collection days and times to provide better service.

For people being tested prior to surgery or a procedure, they are being scheduled from
7 am to noon on Monday, Tuesday, Friday and Saturday.

For community members who are seeking a test, they will continue to pre-register by calling 217 258-7490. New testing times are from 1 to 6 pm, Monday through Friday. 

There are no out of pocket costs for the test as it is covered by insurance and the Cares Act.

Results
We outsource the testing to a lab with high-volume capabilities. Like many others across the nation, it has been overwhelmed with the volume of tests. Our turnaroumd time for results can take up to four days. We will continue to call those who are positive, while those who are negative will receive their results in the US Mail, and the results will be posted to the SBL Patient Portal. If you don’t have a patient portal, you can register

This is a very fluid situation. Every day, scientists learn new things about COVID-19-- how it is transmitted, how to treat it, and how to protect ourselves. We follow the CDC and IDPH guidelines and they change as new information is available. Our promise to the community is that we will continue to be transparent about how we are handling the pandemic locally and provide information as it becomes available.

Stay Healthy,
Jerry

A message from our President & CEO, Jerry Esker (5/29/20)

When we first began hearing about Coronavirus and COVID-19, we really had no idea how it would impact our work lives. There aren’t holidays in healthcare. Illnesses and injuries happen every day and around the clock. We’re accustomed to working through special occasions, family gatherings and inclement weather. We’re always open and ready for what life throws our way.

This has been one of our more challenging times, at least in my career. One of Sarah Bush Lincoln’s greatest assets is that it is an independent organization and nimble. Decisions are made locally and we can implement changes rather quickly. In the last two and a half months, we quickly created a Respiratory Clinic in an effort to consolidate all the testing to one location; redesigned reception areas to create social distancing; reassigned staff to check the health of people at our doors, and began manufacturing our own personal protective equipment. Our staff has made more than 6,000 gowns and masks for us and our patients to use. It has helped relieve the stress on the supply chain.

Now, we are welcoming back many of the 500-plus employees who were furloughed and those who worked shortened weeks. This is only happening because you trust us with your care and have returned to address your healthcare issues. We have seen a downward trend in the number of COVID-19 cases locally, outside of the outbreak at Charleston Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center. We continue to pray for the residents, employees and their families.

We continue to use all the safety practices recommended by the CDC and the Illinois Department of Public Health in all of our facilities. All high-touch surfaces are cleaned hourly with cleaning agents that destroy germs and viruses. Employees monitor their own health daily, and everyone wears a mask. This is one of the safest places you can be!

Mattoon Walk-In Clinic will reopen on Monday, June 1, to treat illnesses and injuries. The Respiratory Clinic at this location closes on Sunday as the need has declined over recent weeks.

Scheduled surgeries and procedures began again on May 11. We continue to monitor our bed capacity to ensure we have ample space should a need arise.

COVID-19 community testing opened on May 11 and has gone very well. In less than a month, more than 1,200 people were tested. There have been 42 positive test results found through the drive-thru collections.

On June 8, we are consolidating the COVID-19 collection site for pre-surgical testing and the community testing site to the east parking lot of the Center for Healthy Living. Surgical patients will be pre-registered through Pre-Anesthesia Testing, while others seeking testing may call 217 258-7490. There is no out-of-pocket cost for this test. On June 8, the hours of this collection site are changing to 8 am to 4:30 pm, Monday, Tuesday and Friday; and 7 am to noon on Saturday.

Sleep Disorders Center will reopen on June 1 for people who are having home studies and in-lab sleep studies. All studies will be completed in the lab on the Sarah Bush Lincoln campus, Prairie Pavilion 1. The Effingham and Casey locations will reopen at a later date. People having an in-lab study will be tested for COVID-19 within 72 hours of their test. Initially, in-lab sleep studies will be performed on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights, while home studies can still be picked up Monday through Friday.

Center for Healthy Living reopens on June 1 for people in the 120-day medically monitored exercise program and those people using personal trainers. The facility will open to its general membership at a later date.

The Heart Center
The Heart Center services are opening on June 1 as well, except for METS classes. We hope to open those classes in the coming weeks.

Extended Campus Locations
Many of our extended campus locations are returning to their regular hours throughout June.

Curbside Services
Prairie Medical Pharmacy and Lincolnland Home Medical Equipment in Mattoon, Effingham and now Vandalia, continue to offer curbside services. For Prairie Medical Pharmacy, please drive under the canopy at Entrance F (westside of the Health Center) and call 217 217-238-6270 in advance. Upon arrival, your prescriptions will be delivered to your car at the canopied entrance.

Lincolnland Home Medical Equipment’s showroom re-opens on June 1. Visitors must wear a mask. Curbside service continues to be available for select items. For the Mattoon store, please call 217 235-0660; for the Effingham store, please call 217 347-7372; for the new Vandalia store, please call 618 699-4502.

We will continue to update the website as things change. Please check the “Daily Updates”  section for current information.  

This has been a formidable time, but because of the care, kindness and generosity of our community, it has made this challenging time a bit easier. Thank you for your concern, prayers and well wishes.


Stay Healthy,
Jerry

A message from our President & CEO, Jerry Esker (5/14/20)

 

I end this week with mixed emotions. 

We are deeply saddened by the COVID-19 outbreak at the Charleston Rehabilitation and Care Center among its residents, its staff and their families. Our hearts break for those who lost loved ones to this virus, and we continue to pray for the recovery of those infected.

Two months following the first diagnosed case in our service area, Sarah Bush Lincoln is slowly returning to a modified “normal.” Our community relies on us for its care and I want to assure you that it is safe to see your medical provider and have procedures performed. Our team cleans high-touch surfaces every hour with sanitizing agents that destroy bacteria and viruses. Lobby chairs have been arranged to promote social distancing and everyone wears a mask at all times. Employees continue to self-monitor for signs and symptoms of the virus. It is truly safer inside a Sarah Bush Lincoln facility than it is walking down the street!

On Monday, May 11, we resumed scheduled outpatient surgeries/procedures with our medical team performing about 140 scheduled outpatient procedures this week using both our new Surgery Center and the operating rooms in the Health Center, as well as the procedure rooms in Special Procedures and in the Center for Interventional Pain. All those having surgeries or procedures were required to have a negative COVID-19 test result just prior to their procedure. There were no positive results.

On Monday, May 18, SBL will resume inpatient scheduled surgeries and procedures. Again, these people must also test negative for COVID-19 just prior to their surgeries. The nursing staff is contacting those who were previously scheduled in order to reschedule them. There are many people who are eager to move forward with their surgeries/procedures and recover so they can enjoy the summer months. We want the same quality of life for you. We paused nearly 1,000 procedures and surgeries in mid-March and we are working as quickly as possible to reschedule these with your safety as our first priority. 

Community COVID-19 testing opened on May 11 and is going very well. During the first few days, more than 500 people were voluntarily tested. Ten people tested positive who didn’t exhibit symptoms of the virus. Some mentioned they believed their symptoms were from seasonal allergies. 

Next week we are offering one-day test sites in three new communities: SBL Tuscola Clinic - noon to 5 pm, Wednesday, May 20; SBL Newton Clinic – noon to 5 pm, Thursday, May 21; and SBL Bonutti Clinic in Effingham – noon to 6 pm, Friday, May 22. Individuals wishing to be tested should call 217 258-7490 to pre-register. The cost is $95. Insurance and the CARES Act will be billed for the cost of the test. There is no out-of-pocket expense to those being tested. All the sites are open to anyone who wishes to be tested.

We are incredibly grateful to Cadillac Products Packaging Company in Paris, which donated 12 rolls of light-weight plastic to SBL so our team can make its own protective gowns. It hopes to make more than 3,000 gowns from this supply. We got the idea from Horizon Health, Paris, which was making its own gowns as well. With a little ingenuity, and collaboration, we can accomplish so much! 

Again, I want to thank our community for its generosity, the continued donation of food to nourish our staff members, the thousands of hand-sewn face masks, the 3-D printed face shields and donation of funds to help defray the cost associated with COVID-19. We promise to remain transparent and responsive to you.

Stay Healthy,

Message from Jerry Esker, President and CEO (5/6/2020)

It has been nearly two months since the first diagnosed COVID-19 case hit our community, and we suspended nearly 1,000 elective procedures to ensure we had bed capacity and enough PPE (personal protective equipment) to handle a surge in the virus. Now, it has been two weeks since a positive COVID-19 test has been reported in Coles County. Beginning Monday, May 11, we will resume elective surgeries and procedures. It is a positive sign that things are beginning to return to normal.

At the outset, all the surgeries being rescheduled are outpatient procedures. Prior to surgery each person must have a negative COVID-19 test, have an available driver to take them home, and someone at home to help them as needed. Our nursing staff is calling each person to reschedule surgeries/procedures and a COVID-19 test. The surgeries will be performed in the surgery suites in the Health Center and in our new Surgery Center that opened just a month before the pandemic hit.

The types of surgeries and procedures being scheduled include eye, ENT, some orthopedic, general surgeries, pain management procedures, podiatric, and gastroenterology procedures and others.

Our staff is as anxious to get back to work as those of you who are anxious to resolve your health issues. I can assure you that Sarah Bush Lincoln is a safe organization. We follow all CDC and Illinois Department of Public Health recommendations. All exam and procedure rooms and all the equipment in it are cleaned with antibacterial agents. Our staff members continue to self-monitor daily by taking their temperatures, washing and sanitizing their hands often and wearing masks to protect others. We are committed to our community’s and patients’ safety.

Community Testing
Also starting on Monday, May 11, we are establishing drive-thru COVID-19 testing for non-symptomatic essential workers in the SBL Center for Health Living parking lot on the east side of the campus. Those interested in being tested will first call 217 258-7490 to pre-register. People with last names beginning with A to M can come anytime from 8 am to 5 pm on Mondays and Wednesdays, while people with last names beginning with N to Z can come anytime from 8 am to 5 pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Any pre-registered person can come from 8 to 5 pm on Fridays. Our staff will begin taking pre-registration calls at 1 pm on Thursday (May 7) and thereafter 8 am to 5 pm, Monday through Friday.

There are no out-of-pocket costs for this test.

We are grateful to Coach House Garage in Mattoon for the use of one of its drive-thru garages and to Ne-Co Asphalt for the traffic cones to help steer cars in the appropriate directions. We ask that people coming for testing arrive from the Loxa Road entrance and exit the same way. Please follow the signage. In coming days, we hope to offer similar test sites in other communities.

Thank You
As we hit another milestone on Sunday, May 10, our 43rd birthday, we are reminded how fortunate we are to serve this community. We are grateful to everyone who has supported us throughout this pandemic with the many gifts of personal protective equipment, viral transport media made by EIU faculty, thousands of hand-sewn masks, hundreds of 3-D crafted face shields made by Lake Land College and other local entrepreneurs, food to nourish our staff during stressful times, and access to supply chains to help us get the protective equipment we need to keep everyone safe and healthy. We are also blessed by our neighbors in Arcola – the Libman Company, which provided $50,000 to help feed our seniors through Peace Meal and provided 20,000 masks, and to those who contributed funds to help us defray the cost of the pandemic.

Leapfrog
Last week received word that we received another “A” grade from Leapfrog, a national watchdog group that rates hospitals based on quality and safety. This is our  third “A” in a row, followed by the Top Rural Hospital designation we received in the fall, which places Sarah Bush Lincoln in the top 6 percent of hospitals nationwide for quality and safety. We are extremely pleased with these designations, and we continue to learn and make improvements in the care we provide with your safety and good health in mind.
We are a strong organization because of you, and we will survive this pandemic. We appreciate all your positive and uplifting comments. Your trust of Sarah Bush Lincoln for your healthcare needs guides our growth and decisions we make to invest in our future. With an incredibly grateful and full heart, thank you.

Message from Jerry Esker, President and CEO (4/10/20)

I am reminded nearly every day how lucky we are to live in this community. While we have always been blessed with its support, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought home how deeply our community cares about Sarah Bush Lincoln, its employees and the community’s health.

Some of the hardest hit businesses are our restaurants, yet daily they bring food to various areas of our organization as a gesture of gratitude. We are humbled by your kindness.

As the national supply chain for personal protective equipment has been very tight, so many of the businesses and individuals in our community have contacted us offering their own supply, offering to order it on our behalf and just dropping it by our entrances for our use. We are all very grateful to have the necessary supplies to protect our patients and our employees. I would be remiss without reaching out to the many, many seamstresses in our community who have taken the time and their own supplies to craft cloth masks. While we have been the recipient of many of them, I know other key areas such as nursing homes and group homes, have also enjoyed the multi-colored masks.

Thank you to everyone who has felt a calling to do something for the greater health of our community. Your generosity is not lost on us.
 
Test Results
As of April 15, we have received 21 positive Covid-19 test results and 293 negative results. None are hospitalized. Four of our employees also have contracted the virus and are isolating and recovering at home. We will continue to be transparent with this information and update the information as it is available.

Visitor Restrictions
With the early positive COVID-19 test results last week, we were forced to make difficult decisions regarding our visitor policy that restricts all visitors with few exceptions. We knew this restriction was inevitable, but we wanted to hold off for as long as we could. We understand how important it is to have loved ones around you when you’re ill, as it lifts your spirits and that does amazing things for your recovery. But with the increasing number of cases diagnosed here and others in surrounding counties, it became apparent that these cases were related to “community spread.” That means that some of the area people who have tested positive for COVID-19 were not knowingly exposed to the virus, nor had they travelled to hot spots.

Until further notice, we are not permitting visitors in the Health Center and in our clinics. The exceptions include during childbirth through mother/baby discharge, the mother can have one support person who cannot leave the room. All meals will be brought to them; a visitor is permitted if a patient is at end-of-life. Clergy is also permitted at end-of-life.

In the case of surgery, the patient may have a support person to hear the doctor’s report and discharge instructions. In Special Procedures, the support person will stay in the car and at discharge, the nurse will provide the driver with appropriate information.

Visitors are permitted in Critical Care Unit on a case-by-case basis.

A support person should accompany a child and people with developmental issues or dementia.

When you need to visit, our staff is screening people at our entrances. You will first be asked to sanitize your hands, put on a mask and then your temperature will be taken. If you are healthy, you’ll receive a color-coded “Cleared” sticker.

Flexing Staff
As I mentioned two weeks ago, we have made all the preparations for an influx of patients due to the pandemic, yet, Sarah Bush Lincoln is not overrun with patients. We have suspended several services to conserve supplies and keep our beds free just in case they are needed. Our staff continues to take time off to better meet the departmental needs. We appreciate the willingness of the staff to comply. We know this is a difficult time.

Message from Jerry Esker, President and CEO (4/8/20)

Since we received news from the Illinois Department of Public Health on March 13 regarding the one person who tested positive for Covid-19, we have tested several other people. As of 4/9/20, results from 225 of those tests have come back negative. We have received a total of 14 positive test results, and the second from Coles County, according to the Coles County Public Health Department.  

Since then, Sarah Bush Lincoln, and other hospitals across the state and nation, have fully prepared for the pandemic. Here are some of the things we have done:

- Established Incident Command to organize our resources and put structure behind the planning and implementation of our preparedness. The team has met twice daily since Monday, March 16.

- Erected a MABAS (Mobile Aid Box Alarm System) tent near the Emergency Department in preparation of an influx of patients with COVID-19 symptoms. (Many thanks are extended to Mattoon and Charleston fire departments for the loan of the tent and manpower to erect it.)

- Triaged patients at the Emergency Department doors in a greater effort to separate people with respiratory issues from those with other illnesses or injuries.

- Established a 24/7 Hotline staff by nurses to address community concerns about the virus. Initially we received about 100 calls a day, but those have diminished to about 25 a day. (217 258-7474)

- Converted our Mattoon Walk-In Clinic into a Respiratory Clinic to care for people with respiratory conditions in one location. We have received up to about 80 calls a day at this clinic and have treated about a dozen people a day.

- Placed screeners at the entrances to the Health Center and in the clinic locations to check patients and visitors for virus symptoms through taking temperatures and asking a series of questions.

- Created a new cleaning schedule to disinfect furniture and other high-touch items in the Health Center and clinics so they are cleaned at least hourly.

- Changed the visitor policy to allow just one visitor per patient.

- Called primary care patients and asked them to convert their in-person appointments to telephone appointments in an effort to keep them at home.

- Canceled all elective surgeries unless the physician deemed that patient would be harmed by not having it.

These preparations were implemented in the first few days and we have been ready to respond.

While we have limited supplies and limited access to quicker testing, we fortunately do not have anyone else who has tested positive. We do have some people admitted to the hospital with respiratory issues, but no COVID-19 viruses. It does take a great deal of PPE (personal protective equipment) to care for one respiratory patient. These items – gloves, masks, gowns –are harder to find. Our purchasing department and emergency preparedness coordinator are working extremely hard tracking down possible equipment for use. Each day these items are inventoried and we have sufficient PPE at Sarah Bush Lincoln. We also have ventilators.

Without patients to take care of, and surgeries and procedures to perform, our census is at a record low. We understand that when you see the national news about full hospitals, low supplies, etc., that you would believe that it was the same for our community. Our community is not in the same situation as other cities you see on television. Without the wider presence of the virus, we have closed some departments, reduced employee work hours, flexed staffing to cover the needs and asked our employees to take their vacation time over the next few weeks.

We are being transparent with our community as to the status of the virus locally. We will not share personal health information about our patients or any information that might identify them. Information is power and knowing the facts helps us all make good decisions and stay safe.

We are so proud to be a part of this community! It has absolutely stepped up to help. Retailers and distributors have reached out to us with needed supplies. Seamstresses have become very busy making face masks for us to distributed to appropriate areas, and restaurants have taken it upon themselves to randomly deliver food to our employees. It is truly what community is all about. You see a need, and address it, in the hopes of making the situation better. We cannot begin to thank all the groups, businesses and individuals who have reached out to us during this time.

We are a strong organization and have full faith that we will weather this pandemic.

Message from Jerry Esker, President and CEO (3/17/20)

Last week, the Corona virus took on a life of its own. We’ve all watched the news reports around the globe and how it’s affecting our local community. It is an unprecedented time in our history.

With the temporary closing of schools, and canceling large venues such as concerts, sporting events and now churches to help slow the spread of the illness, we want you to know that our doors are open.

We have established this page that contains all the up-to-date information regarding SBL operations, links to the CDC and Illinois Department of Public Health and quick access to the phone numbers you may need.

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
  • llinois Department of Public Health (IDPH)
  • Sarah Bush Lincoln locations

This is a very fast-moving situation and we learn more about it daily. For now, we are limiting the number of support persons to one for our patients in the clinics and in the hospital and for those undergoing surgery. We understand your concern for family members who may going through difficult health issues, and your desire to be by their sides. We will include you in conversations via the telephone.

  • At the current time elective surgeries are being performed at the surgeon’s discretion. This situation may change from day-to-day.
  • If you come to the ER for care for any issue, you will be pre-screened at the door in a larger effort to separate those who are injured or sick and those with contagious respiratory illnesses.
  • If you are experiencing a cough, fever and/or tightness in your chest and think you may have contracted the virus, we strongly urge you to call your doctor’s office, a walk-in clinic or the ER in advance of your arrival. This allows us to be prepared for you, meet you outside in the parking lot, provide personal protective equipment to you and bring you into the building through an alternate entrance to protect the other people in the reception area.
  • Like other hospitals, we have a limited number of test kits and will use them on people who meet the criteria for testing. We are not a testing center.

We are grateful to our community partners, the Mattoon and Charleston fire departments which erected a MABAS (Mutual Aid Box Alarm System) tent outside of our ER as a precautionary measure should there be an influx of people with the virus.

We encourage you to use our Virtual MD app so you can talk with a doctor from the safety of your home. Click here for instructions on how to create an account before you become ill.

We are not only prepared for Covid-19, but we are caring for people with the flu and pertussis (whooping cough) and a wide variety of other illnesses and injuries. Organization-wide, we are disinfecting all reception areas hourly, and high-touch items, like telephones, door handles and keyboards, regularly. We ask that you do the same. Wash your hands, use the hand sanitizer provided throughout the clinics and the hospital and cover your cough and sneezes. And stay home as much as possible.

We will be updating this site daily and sharing information on social media.

Message from President & CEO Jerry Esker (3/25/20)

Since we received news from the Illinois Department of Public Health on March 13 regarding the one person who tested positive for Covid-19, we have tested several other people. As of 3/25/20, results from 43 of those tests have come back negative. We have received no other positive test results.

Since then, Sarah Bush Lincoln, and other hospitals across the state and nation, have fully prepared for the pandemic. Here are some of the things we have done:

  • Established Incident Command to organize our resources and put structure behind the planning and implementation of our preparedness. The team has met twice daily since Monday, March 16.
  • Erected a MABAS (Mobile Aid Box Alarm System) tent near the Emergency Department in preparation of an influx of patients with COVID19 symptoms. (Many thanks are extended to Mattoon and Charleston fire departments for the loan of the tent and manpower to erect it.)
  • Triaged patients at the Emergency Department doors in a greater effort to separate people with respiratory issues from those with other illnesses or injuries.
  • Established a 24/7 Hotline staff by nurses to address community concerns about the virus. Initially we received about 100 calls a day, but those have diminished to about 25 a day.
  • Converted our Mattoon WalkIn Clinic into a Respiratory Clinic to care for people with respiratory conditions in one location. We have received up to about 80 calls a day at this clinic and have treated about a dozen people a day.
  • Placed screeners at the entrances to the Health Center and in the clinic locations to check patients and visitors for virus symptoms through taking temperatures and asking a series of questions.
  • Created a new cleaning schedule to disinfect furniture and other hightouch items in the Health Center and clinics so they are cleaned at least hourly.
  • Changed the visitor policy to allow just one visitor per patient.
  • Called primary care patients and asked them to convert their inperson appointments to telephone appointments in an effort to keep them at home.
  • Canceled all elective surgeries unless the physician deemed that patient would be harmed by not having it.

These preparations were implemented in the first few days and we have been ready to respond.

While we have limited supplies and access to quicker testing, we fortunately do not have anyone else who has tested positive. We do have some people admitted to the hospital with respiratory issues, but no COVID-19 viruses. It does take a great deal of PPE (personal protective equipment) to care for one respiratory patient. These items – gloves, masks, gowns –are harder to find. Our purchasing department and emergency preparedness coordinator are working extremely hard tracking down possible equipment for use. Each day these items are inventoried and we have sufficient PPE at Sarah Bush Lincoln. We also have ventilators.

Without patients to take care of, and surgeries and procedures to perform, our census is at a record low. We understand that when you see the national news about full hospitals, low supplies, etc., that you would believe that it was the same for our community. Our community is not in the same situation as other cities you see on television. Without the wider presence of the virus, we have closed some departments, reduced employee work hours, flexed staffing to cover the needs and asked our employees to take their vacation time over the next few weeks.

We are being transparent with our community as to the status of the virus locally. We will not share personal health information about our patients or any information that might identify them. Information is power and knowing the facts helps us all make good decisions and stay safe.

We are so proud to be a part of this community! It has absolutely stepped up to help. Retailers and distributors have reached out to us with needed supplies. Seamstresses have become very busy making face masks for us to distributed to appropriate areas, and restaurants have taken it upon themselves to randomly deliver food to our employees. It is truly what community is all about. You see a need, and address it, in the hopes of making the situation better. We cannot begin to thank all the groups, businesses and individuals who have reached out to us during this time.

We are a strong organization and have full faith that we will weather this pandemic.