Coming Together as a Community

Coming Together as a Community
By: Preston Becker

The year 2020 has been one we will never forget. As I reflect on the past year, I am filled with many emotions but one I would like to emphasize is that of gratitude. My family and I relocated to Bonners Ferry in the fall of 2019 as I was hired as CEO of Boundary Community Hospital. A native of North Idaho, I was excited to return to the quality of life I knew growing up. One which would afford me the opportunity to play as hard as I would work and have the opportunity to spend quality time with my wife and children in a small and safe community. What we didn’t anticipate was a worldwide pandemic. As the pandemic became a reality, we saw our new sense of normal completely transform. Like many others, we were filled with a lot of questions, concerns, fear, and confusion.

I quickly was forced to act and prepare our local hospital for the uncertainty that was ahead. In mid-March, we developed an advisory task force to guide our organization through handling COVID-19 locally. This team, which is still active today, has met routinely to ensure the safety of our staff, physicians, patients, and visitors. We have created an environment where key stakeholders have the opportunity to voice their opinions and concerns in a transparent and safe setting. I immediately recognized that we have something very special here, we truly have the most caring and compassionate group of caregivers and healthcare leaders that I have ever had the privilege of working with in my 20 years in hospital administration. I believe we have not only created a very safe environment for those needing care, but we have put the safety of our nursing home residents at the peak of our priorities as this is their home and they are our most vulnerable population to any infectious disease, especially one we know so little about. While we don’t live in a perfect environment and mistakes do happen, I believe we have developed a culture where individuals take ownership and accountability for their actions and are continually striving to learn and do what’s best for those entering our facility, whether it’s through our primary care clinic, our nursing home, or one of our many hospital services including the emergency department, outpatient services such as lab, medical imaging, and rehab among so many others. We may be a small community and a small hospital; however, we have the best people and some of the best technology available. As an example and due to quick thinking; we were proactive in acquiring lab testing equipment that would allow us to provide COVID-19 testing locally, and we have been able to keep the community well cared for and informed during this pandemic.

Now that we’re nearing the end of the year, I can look back and find so many things to be grateful for. Understanding that COVID-19 has impacted every community around the globe, there is no other community I would rather be in. I am proud of Bonners Ferry and the people that make up our great community. I truly believe that what we have here is special and while I’m sure I don’t need to convince many people of that, I have chosen to see all of the good things about our community during such a trying time. I appreciate the support the community has shown our healthcare community and entrusting your care to our local healthcare professionals. I have seen our community come together, neighbors caring for neighbors, and for that I am a proud and grateful citizen of this wonderful community!

Preston Becker is Chief Executive Officer at Boundary Community Hospital

Boundary Community Hospital and COVID-19

By: Preston Becker, CEO, Boundary Community Hospital

As tents pop up near the Emergency Rooms at other Northwest Hospital Alliance* Member Hospitals in our area, I felt it was important to reassure Boundary County residents that your local community hospital is prepared if we are needed.  Boundary Community Hospital, Extended Care Facility (Nursing Home), and Boundary Community Clinics’ priority is the safety of our patients, their families, our staff and our community.

These are some steps we have been taking to ensure the safety of all.

  • Our staff is prepared – we have annual training, drills and protocols in place for handling pandemics and infectious diseases. We have daily meetings with all departments to discuss any issues. Chinna McKechnie, RN is our Infection Prevention and Control Director and she is doing an outstanding job ensuring that all staff are properly trained and willing to care for any COVID-19 patients.
  • While some items are in short supply for ordering, we currently have the supplies we need and have been working on contingency plans to keep everyone safe.
  • Our nursing staff are managing visitor access and movement within the facilities (Acute, ED, Outpatient, Clinic, and ECF). Our Extended Care Facility and Hospital Acute Care are performing extra screening for visitors and volunteers. We remind everyone, if you are not feeling well, call the patient or resident you want to visit instead of coming in person.
  • We continue to network with Panhandle Health Department, Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, Northwest Hospital Alliance, Boundary County Emergency Management Public Information Officer (PIO), Boundary Ambulance, and Boundary County School District.
  • Signs and symptoms include respiratory symptoms and fever, cough and shortness of breath. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome and sometimes death. High-risk patients for severe coronavirus disease are older and have comorbidities (other health issues). Remember to stay home and call public health, or your healthcare provider directly, if you experience any of these symptoms. It is best for our healthcare providers to treat you over the phone.  Additionally, the Emergency Department is not the treatment of choice for COVID-19, and should not be utilized unless your symptoms become severe or emergent.

On an additional note, it is important that we maintain a healthy blood supply for our facility.  “In these difficult times, giving blood is something healthy individuals can do to help the sick. The only source for blood—literally in many hospital procedures, the source of life—is another human being,” said Dr. Ralph Vassallo, Vitalant’s chief medical and scientific officer. “We need people to donate blood today, while following guidance from the CDC and other agencies.”

We encourage our community to participate in the local Vitalant blood drive on March 17th at the LDS Church. It is absolutely critical to avoiding another public health crisis: not having enough blood to meet basic patient needs.

As of March 13th, there continues to be no confirmed cases in the state of Idaho. Our own Infection Prevention and Control Director, Chinna McKechnie, is staying on top of the information and guidance in order to be prepared as a front-line hospital organization. Our top priority is to protect our community and staff in the event of a potential outbreak and we are prepared to do just that.

Stay informed: The Panhandle Health District has a hotline dedicated to assisting the public. If you have any questions about coronavirus or think you may be displaying symptoms, call 1-877-415-5225 or visit their website http://panhandlehealthdistrict.org/

 

* The Northwest Hospital Alliance includes: Boundary Community Hospital in Bonners Ferry, Benewah Community Hospital in St Maries, Bonner General Health in Sandpoint, Kootenai Health in Coeur D’Alene, Shoshone Medical Center in Kellogg,  Syringa Hospital and Clinics in Grangeville, Clearwater Valley Hospital in Orofino, and St. Mary’s Hospital in Cottonwood.

 

March 13, 2020

Coronavirus Information