Heywood grapples with lag in test results, protective equipment pinch

For Athol Daily News
Published: 3/25/2020 3:29:54 PM
Modified: 3/25/2020 3:29:47 PM

GARDNER – “Last week I said, ‘What a year this week has been’; well, what a week this day has been.”

That is how Heywood Healthcare President Wingard Brown began his evening COVID-19 update Monday night. Heywood Healthcare operates Athol Hospital and Gardner’s Heywood Hospital, as well as Heywood Urgent Care and Tully Walk-in Care.

Brown began his statement by referring to Gov. Charlie Baker’s order Monday closing all non-essential businesses for the next two weeks.

“Everyone at Heywood Healthcare is considered essential,” he said. “So, you need to report to work as scheduled, and make sure you’re always carrying your ID with you in your car in case, for some reason, you’re questioned about your coming and going.

“The command center,” he continued, “has finalized our entrance screening protocol and staffing. The short story is, we’re staffing from our labor pool going forward. Our VP of HR, Paul Heffernan, will get an all-employee email out to everyone shortly, and I want to thank everyone who has stepped up to fulfill this new role that we have not faced before. The volunteerism has been fantastic.”

“Dan French, who runs our lab,” Brown continued, “tells me that the turnaround time for results is now averaging three and a half to four and a half days, and that the number of tests being run in Massachusetts are up 200 percent from the week before. So, there’s a lot of volume going through the labs, and we’re frustrated that we don’t have results back. But I guess it is what it is and we’re going to continue to push for that.

“We have five in-patients right now who are suspect for COVID-19, and we’re awaiting their testing results.”

As of Tuesday, 106 tests have been conducted with two confirmed cases so far, including one in-patient. Test results are pending on four in-patients.

All patients in the Heywood service who are symptomatic of the novel coronavirus are being sent to Heywood Hospital.

Brown said the Heywood command center spent much of the day Monday inventorying the system’s personal protective equipment and forecasting potential deliveries.

“As you know,” he said, “it’s hard to forecast when personal protective equipment will actually arrive these days, but our team has been working on that. And we’ve been trying to calculate how long our supplies can last as we go to a new protocol.

“Today we started rolling out a new protocol and guidance which protect our staff and our patients, knowing it will increase our burn rate of personal protective equipment. We believe we will have about seven days-worth of personal protective equipment on hand. We, in particular, are incredibly low on disposable gowns.”

The new protocols were rolled out Monday at Heywood Hospital and the emergency rooms at both Heywood and Athol hospitals. He said the new procedure is considered best practice.

Starting today, Brown said, “We will be rolling out PPE ( personal protective equipment) to all staff who work in clinical areas, to be worn at all times during their shifts, except during breaks or meal breaks. Greeters will also wear masks, and those in non-clinical areas will wear masks being made by our sewing volunteers across the community.”

Brown added the system’s stock of personal protective equipment has been bolstered by area companies and individuals who have donated the items to Heywood. He said anyone who is able to donate the badly needed equipment can drop off donations at the main entrance of both hospitals 24 hours a day.

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