Norton County Hospital Continues Efforts To Mitigate COVID-19 Risk

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NORTON, Kan. – What are Norton County Hospital and Norton Medical Clinic currently doing to minimize risk of COVID-19 exposure? In summary:

– Staffing – Hospital and clinic staff are balancing caring for everyday health needs and non-COVID-19 emergencies (e.g., heart attacks, motor vehicle accidents, traumas, etc.) while preparing for the potential to care for COVID-19 patients. At the same time, the hospital and clinic want to reduce potential staff exposure to COVID-19 while maintaining these capabilities.

Many county, state and national meetings about the COVID-19 situation are attended daily by hospital and clinic staff to bring the latest information into the facilities; those meetings are accessible via platforms such as Zoom and conference calls. Furthermore, internal meeting sizes have been reduced, and social distancing is being practiced. Staff congregating areas such as the dining room have been closed for nearly two weeks, and staff are asked to enter the facility at designated locations to reduce their exposure to sick patients.

The hospital developed an internal staff team to provide 24/7 COVID-19 support to assist with questions. Also available is a secure COVID-19 intranet page for staff to streamline internal communications.

– Screening measures – As a reminder, since March 20, the following visitor restrictions and screening measures have been put into place at Norton County Hospital and Norton Medical Clinic:

  • All visitor and patient traffic is limited to the Outpatient Entrance and front Medical Clinic Entrance.
  • Those seeking emergency care still present through the ER door. When patients push the button to enter the ER, nursing staff ask screening questions before the patient enters the ER. This allows staff the ability to ensure the appropriate handling of a COVID-19 concern.
  • A screener is present at both the Outpatient and Medical Clinic entrances to screen patients and visitors for current symptoms, recent travel, and reason(s) for their arrival to the hospital or clinic.
  • One visitor at a time is permitted to be with a patient.
  • No visitors under 12 years of age are allowed into the facilities.
    Hospital visiting hours are 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Visitors visibly showing symptoms (e.g., cough, fever and shortness of breath) are not allowed in the facility.

These restrictions and screening measures may be enhanced at any time. Norton County Hospital will communicate any changes to the public.

– COVID-19 screening – The hospital and clinic first screen patients for signs and symptoms of COVID-19, preferably over the phone, prior to their arrival at the facilities. This is why it’s important for patients to call (Hospital, 785-877-3351; Clinic, 785-877-3305) before arrival. Aside from the initial screening measures, infection prevention (i.e., using protective gear) and isolation procedures have also been developed for those who may present with respiratory complaints. These measures prevent potential exposure of COVID-19 to others who are well.

The public should realize that COVID-19 is spread in the community by droplets; this is why social distancing – being at least 6 feet apart from others – and proper handwashing continue to be important.

– Temporary reduction or changes in services – Norton County Hospital is not performing elective surgeries at this time. Some specialty clinics have been canceled or postponed, and affected patients are being contacted directly to reschedule their appointments. Efforts are being made to transition patients’ telebehavioral health visits to their homes rather than patients coming to the medical clinic for those appointments. The health care providers weigh the risks versus the benefits with each patient to determine if he or she needs a visit now, or if it can wait until a later date.

– Staggered scheduling – Effective March 31, Norton Medical Clinic implemented a change in appointment scheduling. Until further notice, only well-patient related visits will be scheduled in the morning, and all sick care visits are scheduled in the afternoon. For any specialty provider coming to Norton County Hospital for outpatient clinics, patient scheduling is spread out to reduce the number of people sitting in the waiting area at the same time.

– Telehealth – Telehealth appointments are being offered at Norton Medical Clinic to allow patients to stay home and still receive the care they need. Patients need to call 785-877-3305 to get the telehealth appointment scheduled. Clinic staff members are handling each appointment on a case-by-case basis by determining the health care needs that can be met remotely versus having the patient physically come in to receive care.

– Billing – Rather than physically coming in to pay a bill, patients may pay online or over the phone. The online bill pay website may be accessed at http://www.ntcohosp.com/patient_visitor_info/online_bill_pay.html, and bills may be paid by calling 1-855-342-7042.

Norton County Hospital and Norton Medical Clinic continue to work tirelessly internally to assure staff safety and preparedness for the communities served. Much of that work, as noted above, has been within the walls of the facilities. Staff continue to follow all Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) and Kansas Hospital Association guidelines for such things as protective gear conservation, testing criteria, cleaning and levels of response.

Changes are rapidly occurring in the realm of finance/reimbursement, human resource management/staffing and clinical care related to COVID-19. Norton County Hospital is working to stay on top of these changes with many partners to assure protection for staff and members of community.

“COVID-19 will eventually come to our communities,” said Gina Frack, Norton County Hospital CEO. “It is a matter of when, not if. We have additional plans in place to manage the virus when that time comes. We will let our staff and the community know what those changes mean for their care.”

“What we need from the community is to comply with staying home as best you can. Help others in need. Recognize everyone is being affected by these times in a variety of ways. We are still taking donations at the hospital, such as homemade cloth masks and a variety of other items. We sincerely appreciate those donations. Together, we will get through these challenging times.”

A list of items that may be donated to the hospital can be found online. A donation bin has been set up outside the Outpatient Clinic entrance for easy drop off. Keep up-to-date on COVID-19 information from local, state and national sources as well at www.ntcohosp.com.

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Derek Nester was born and raised in Blue Rapids and graduated from Valley Heights High School in 2000. He attended Cowley College in Arkansas City and Johnson County Community College in Overland Park studying Journalism & Media Communications. In 2002 Derek joined Taylor Communications, Inc. in Salina, Kansas working in digital media for 550 AM KFRM and 100.9 FM KCLY. Following that stop, he joined Dierking Communications, Inc. stations KNDY AM & FM as a board operator and fill-in sports play-by-play announcer. Starting in 2005 Derek joined the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network as a Studio Coordinator at 101 The Fox in Kansas City, a role he would serve for 15 years culminating in the Super Bowl LIV Championship game broadcast. In 2021 he moved to Audacy, formerly known as Entercom Communications, Inc. and 106.5 The Wolf and 610 Sports Radio, the new flagship stations of the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network, the largest radio network in the NFL. Through all of this, Derek continues to serve as the Digital Media Director for Sunflower State Radio, the digital and social media operations of Dierking Communications, Inc. and the 6 radio stations it owns and operates across Kansas.