FAQ about COVID-19 and BCH

Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 and Boundary Community Hospital

December 16, 2020

Does Boundary Community Hospital (BCH) care for COVID patients?
Boundary Community Hospital is unique in the state of Idaho because they have an extended care facility/nursing home contiguous to the acute care facility/hospital. Federally-mandated regulations on nursing homes restricts access and adds special conditions to the entire facility including acute care. In addition, BCH does not have an intensive care unit (ICU) – all patients requiring ICU care must be transported to another area hospital. Therefore, in cooperation with other hospitals in the region, BCH does not typically admit COVID-19 patients. BCH does admit non-COVID patients on a case by case basis. The Acute Care Unit is licensed as a 20 bed hospital, however, staffing and other issues may limit the number of beds available for patient care.

COVID-19 positive patients are often treated in the Emergency Room. Acute patients requiring ICU or hospitalization are generally transferred to other hospitals in the region. Many patients are sent home to recover under the supervision of their primary care provider.

BCH encourages everyone to wear a mask while out in public and when you cannot maintain a 6 foot distance. Masks are required for patients using the Rural Health Clinic and Outpatient Services such as Physical Therapy and Radiology. Some curbside services are available such as lab blood draws, Anticoagulation Coumadin® Clinic, and COVID-19 testing. Visitor restrictions are in place throughout the facility and essential visitors for Emergency and Acute Care patients will be required to wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) while in the facility.
Wearing a mask is just one way to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Just as important is frequent hand washing, as well as social distancing and avoiding large gatherings.

How does testing work at BCH?
When a lab order is received, a patient registration clerk will contact the patient directly to register the patient and schedule the test. Every effort is made to schedule patients for testing on the same day as the lab order is received. Scheduled patients use the drive through COVID-19 lab testing site located across from the hospital’s helipad next to the Fry Healthcare Education Center.

The Clinical Medical Laboratory at BCH runs the majority of testing in-house. The testing methodology is determined by the ordering provider and requested specifically on the lab order. All positive tests are reported to Panhandle Health District. As of December 16, 2020, BCH has taken 5,016 samples, of those 4,883 have been tested in-house with 536 found to be COVID-19 positive.

The main types of testing include:

  • Biofire Respiratory Panels (PCR) – testing for fifteen viruses (including SARS Cov-2) and four bacteria. This test not only tests for COVID-19 but also for other viruses like rhinovirus and influenza. With this test, providers can find out if you have COVID-19 or influenza and what type of flu.
  • Sofia Antigen Testing – rapid testing with high accuracy, this test provides results in hours instead of days. Positive antigen tests will show up as “probable” on Panhandle Health District’s website rather than confirmed, based on Idaho Department of Health and Welfare testing criteria.
  • CDC PCR Testing – In some cases, as requested by a provider, a sample will be sent to the Idaho State Lab for official PCR testing.
  • Antibody Testing – After you’ve had COVID-19, your provider may request that you have an antibody blood test to check your level of SARS Cov-2 antibodies.

BCH only tracks the testing they perform in-house. Test results are reported by the patient’s official county of residence, not where the test is taken. The numbers for Boundary County as reported by Panhandle Health District are tabulated by Panhandle Health District from multiple sources.

How do you know if patients have COVID-19 or the flu?
If a primary care provider suspects that a symptomatic patient may have COVID-19, the flu, or another respiratory virus, they will likely request a Biofire Respiratory Panel test from the BCH Lab. This reliable test checks for fifteen viruses including COVID-19. Results are available within hours so that the appropriate treatment can be prescribed.

How is the pandemic affecting the rest of the hospital? Are you stopping surgeries to accommodate more patients?
Some people are avoiding coming to the Hospital or cancelling scheduled appointments. Patients and visitors are thoroughly screened at the door prior to their appointments. Surgeries, rural health clinic, specialist clinics and outpatient visits continue as scheduled with the new safety guidelines.

The BCH Housekeeping team is doing an outstanding job maintaining a clean environment for patients and staff. BCH Infection Prevention Director, Chinna McKechnie, RN performs frequent inspections and rigorous protocols to ensure the safety of everyone who enters our facility. Patients can be assured that the protocols in place will protect them so they should feel comfortable keeping their appointments.

When will Boundary County be receiving COVID-19 vaccines and how will it be distributed?
The Pfizer vaccine has indeed made its way to Idaho. Nurses and doctors in Boise and Idaho Falls started getting vaccinated on Monday, December 14. North Idaho should see the arrival of its first allocation by Friday. More is on the way with the possibility of a second vaccine approved before the end of the year. The State of Idaho will be working directly with specific pharmacies to get the vaccine to nursing home residents and staff. BCH will continue to work with Panhandle Health District and local providers for the distribution of the vaccine to Boundary County residents.