SITKA – SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) is rolling out virtual appointments with providers to further reduce patient contact and facility contamination during the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of the SEARHC Incident Command System’s (ICS) Tuesday meeting, it was announced that in-person visits have are being replaced by phone appointments and video calls in prominent service lines, while testing guidelines have been updated to remove travel and exposure criteria.
Virtual visits reduce direct contact, leading to a safer, more streamlined appointment for both patients and providers. Behavioral Health is now conducting most visits via phone or video, with limited in-person visits. Primary Care has begun the Consortium wide roll-out of virtual appointments, with in-person visits available only under certain circumstances.
“Primary Care and Behavior Health are essential services in all SEARHC communities,” said SEARHC Vice President and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Elliot Bruhl. “As COVID-19 has inched closer to our facilities, we have decided to rely more heavily on technology to discourage the potential spread of the virus. The ICS team is confident that Primary Care and Behavioral Health staff will continue to provide world-class care to all patients in our region through these alternative delivery methods.”
Based upon a consensus of medical directors and the Chief Medical Officer, SEARHC will be updating COVID-19 screening criteria to include testing of all patients with a fever and cough, regardless of travel or exposure history. This reflects the realization that there is community-spread occurring within our state.
SEARHC recently implemented a temporary work at home policy to allow employees to work remotely during the crisis, if their job duties allow. Redeployment of under-employed staff has begun, as understaffed departments are beginning to receive re-assigned laborers in the wake of service line reductions and suspensions. Hospital leadership is finalizing surge plans should COVID-19 outbreaks create the need for high levels of patient admittance. Surge plans include maximized staffing models, increased support services, and potential relocation of patients and residents should an exponential influx of inpatients present itself.
For more information on SEARHC’s coronavirus response, call the COVID-19 Hotline at 907.966.8799 or visit covid19.searhc.org to find a provider nearest you.