Aspirus Riverview adapts to changes during COVID
By City Times staff
WISCONSIN RAPIDS – Aspirus Riverview Hospital in Wisconsin Rapids is adapting to changes created by the COVID outbreak.
Aspirus President Chris Stines said that the hospital is still seeing patients, performing necessary surgeries and clinic visits, but some of the daily functioning has changed.
“We’re still open, our ED is still open and seeing patients 24/7 so we’re still functioning but we’re limiting access to the hospital for certain types of procedures,” he said. “We’ve limited access for visitors as well to help protect the community.
“The pandemic itself has affected us in that we have followed federal and state guidelines for limiting use of PPE which is personal protective equipment that caregivers have to wear to protect themselves and patients so in order to conserve those we’ve limited our functionality in terms of procedures to just essential procedures and we’ve limited most of our non-emergent procedures.
Stines said that some of the hospital’s services have been adjusted to prepare for an anticipated surge of patients.
“We’ve looked at various models that predict an influx of positive patients that need hospitalization,” Stines explained. “The majority of patients that get COVID don’t need to be hospitalized but looking at the projections that various places have made regarding COVID influx, we’ve prepared for an influx of those patients from a hospital capacity perspective, a supply perspective, and a people perspective.
“All of those things are needed to take care of this influx of inpatients. More beds, we’ve expanded our capacity from nine ICUs to 28 ICUs. We are able to take care of 19 additional critical care patients that might need to be cared for during this surge, and we’ve also identified other areas of the hospital that we could open up to add more capacity for taking care of patients.
“In terms of people we’ve identified a surge plan labor pool that we can use to help take care of the influx of patients with our existing staff and then also in terms of supplies we’ve identified the supplies we would need in order to take care of those people including additional ventilators and PPE that’s necessary. Part of this surge plan is the conservation of PPE so that’s why we’ve had to limit some of the non emergent procedures that we would normally do.”
The adjustment to the hospital’s operations, however, is creating some huge financial problems for the institution.
“We’ve seen about a 45 percent reduction in our revenues, because we’ve had to limit some of those procedures we would normally be doing like some of our surgical procedures that are considered non emergent,” Stines added. “That’s probably the biggest challenge right now, the financial aspect. As we wait for the projected surge to come we are doing less things so that means less revenue whereas in other big cities on the coast they saw a surge pretty quickly so they were able to react to that with additional staffing and things like that. Right now we’re just kind of sitting back and waiting.”
Stines adds that the current state, with the Safer at Home order intact, has introduced new means for providing care.
“We’ve expanded our video visits and our e-visits as a hospital,” he said. “Now patients can get a video visit without even having to leave the comfort and safety of their home. If they want to do that they can go to our website aspirus.org and search for the video visits and sign up and be able to seek medical care right there from their computer or smartphone.”
Stines added that, as an organization, Aspirus and Aspirus Riverview Hospitals was probably one of the first in the state to implement the “Incident Command System.”
“We acted quickly and set up things like our 1800 number so that people could call and get information, where to go to seek treatment, if they should seek treatment,” he explained. “We’re able to also use our large 10 hospital system to plan for supply usage and how we were gonna be able to distribute the supplies we needed to take care of this population of patients.”
Stines said that while the Safer at Home order and the public’s compliance with it appear to be flattening the curve, there are still some issues in responding to the virus
“In terms of responding to this pandemic which we still are in the middle of, we need to have more testing available out there, and we also need to have more contact tracing,” he said. “Those are the two big pieces that we need to do in addition to testing for antibodies. That’s all work that hasn’t been fully implemented to scale yet and that all needs to take place yet before we can feel comfortable opening up our facilities and letting people go back out there.
“We really need to continue to be vigilant about this and use science and the government and the state resources to help us to get more testing out there and also contact tracing and antibody testing. Those are all three big pieces we still need to do a lot more work on as a state and as a country.”
Many of Aspirus’ services still remain available to the public.
We keep hearing about people being confused regarding what medical services are available and whether it ‘is safe’ to come in for a necessary appointment/ER/walk-in care/etc…,” said Tami Barber, in Aspirus Marketing & Communications. “We do not want patients to delay necessary medical care. Many of our services are open and safe due to extensive precautions we are taking to avoid virus spread.”
Barber said that the Emergency Room is always open. The Aspirus Doctors Clinic walk-in is open 7 a.m. – 7 p.m., weekdays, and 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. on weekends and holidays. The Aspirus Doctors Clinic and Aspirus Riverview Clinic in Wisconsin Rapids are also open. Aspirus also has a COVID-19 Call Center available as 844-568-0701.