FEELING SICK? CALL AHEAD FIRST, CONSIDER VIRTUAL VISITS
Staying safe during the novel coronavirus outbreak involves making some smart decisions before seeking health care.
Symptoms of the coronavirus — formally known as COVIID-19 — include fever, cough and shortness of breath, but many health care providers are urging patients to call ahead before making a trip to the doctor if they’re feeling ill.
Beaufort Memorial Hospital asks those with COVID-19-related symptoms to call their doctor’s office or clinic before arriving in person. Hospital officials said the doctor’s office will ask a few questions and give patients appropriate instructions, which could include going to their office for care or reporting to another site to receive rapid influenza and strep tests.
In some cases, hospital officials said, patients may be asked to wait in their cars while a medical provider administers and processes the tests.
Patients reporting to Beaufort Memorial’s emergency room with mild fever and respiratory symptoms might be directed to the COVID-19 triage and screening tents in the parking lot, the hospital said.
Our No. 1 priority is the health and safety of our patients and staff
– RUSSELL BAXLEY, BEAUFORT MEMORIAL PRESIDENT AND CEO
The site includes two climate-controlled tents. The hospital will continue to operate its mobile testing site at the Beaufort Memorial Medical and Administrative Center. Patients reporting to this site must have a physician’s order and related paperwork on file before arriving.
“Our No. 1 priority is the health and safety of our patients and staff,” Beaufort Memorial president and CEO Russell Baxley said. “Given the rapidly evolving nature of this pandemic, we ask for patience and cooperation as we work to provide the best care possible to our patients.”
Baxley said Beaufort Memorial does not have COVID-19 test kits and cannot process the tests at the hospital, but it can collect specimens and send them to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control state lab.
Hilton Head Regional Healthcare — which manages Hilton Head and Coastal Carolina hospitals, Bluffton/ Okatie Outpatient Center and Tidewatch Emergency Department — routinely treats infectious diseases at Coastal Carolina and Hilton Head hospitals and said its top priority is making sure its patients, visitors, staff and community are safe.
“We follow CDC guidelines for identification and treatment of patients with suspected or confirmed cases of the coronavirus,” said Daisy Burroughs, spokesperson for Hilton Head Hospital and Coastal Carolina Hospital.
At Hilton Head and Coastal Carolina hospitals, access is limited to only the emergency department.
Burroughs said a tent has been erected outside the entrance of the emergency department at Hilton Head and Coastal Carolina hospitals for an extra waiting room.
Elective surgical and diagnostic procedures are postponed. If a patient visits Hilton Head Regional Healthcare hospitals and meets CDC criteria for testing, Burroughs said the hospital works with DHEC and if appropriate, gathers a sample and provides it to a CDC-appointed laboratory.
CARE FROM ANYWHERE
For those who have COVID-19–related symptoms but can’t leave their homes, Beaufort Memorial offers a free telemedicine option: BMH Care Anywhere. The virtual option allows patients to connect with a physician using video via a smartphone, tablet or computer.
The patient will see a board-certified provider who will review the patient’s symptoms and discuss treatment options.
If COVID-19 is suspected, patients will be directed to a Beaufort Memorial Express Care location for screening to determine if they meet the criteria for COVID-19 testing.
Patients will need a credit or debit card to begin their visit and will see an authorization hold of $59 placed on their account. The provider will waive the fee for patients with respiratory symptoms and the authorization hold will be lifted, according to a Beaufort Memorial news release.
The health insurer for patients with respiratory symptoms may be billed, according to Beaufort Memorial. The hospital also suggests using BMH Care Anywhere for common ailments, such as colds, ear infections, sore throat, sinus infections, headaches and migraines to avoid having to go to the doctor’s office. For illnesses unrelated to COVID-19, the fee for telemedicine visits is $59.
Additionally, one of Beaufort Memorial’s technology partners launched a coronavirus chat platform to answer questions and keep the public informed. Go to healthgrades.com to get local notifications from the CDC, answers to common questions and prevention tips.
In an effort to keep patients and staff safe, Beaufort Memorial has implemented visitor restrictions. Effective March 21, visitors were not allowed in the hospital except for the labor and delivery and pediatric units. Patients in those units are allowed one visitor.
Patients who require assistance or end-of-life care will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, according to the hospital.
Beginning March 23, the hospital and outpatient clinic waiting rooms were closed to visitors. Visitors will be asked to wait in their cars and will be notified when the patient is ready to leave.
Visitor temperatures will be screened at all Beaufort Memorial locations, the hospital said.
As an additional safety precaution, Beaufort Memorial has canceled all elective surgeries at its main hospital and outpatient surgery center. However, surgeries will be performed in urgent and emergency situations. Visitor hours at the hospital end at 5 p.m., and online check-in for the emergency center has been suspended. Patients who need emergency care are asked to call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.
Visitor hours at Coastal Carolina and Hilton Head hospitals were suspended until further notice as of late March. Possible exceptions include patients who are in grave condition, having a baby, at the end of life, and private duty care takers, according to the Hilton Head Regional Healthcare website.
Only one visitor or companion per patient is allowed for a patient undergoing surgery or a patient requiring an outpatient test or a procedure. When visitors enter either hospital through the emergency department, hospital staff will screen for recent travel and coronavirus symptoms, the website said.
Virtual visits via Skype or Facetime are encouraged.