SITKA – The SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) Incident Command System (ICS) met on Tuesday, April 21, to communicate the progress of the organization-wide COVID-19 response and examine Governor Dunleavy’s latest health mandate. Items on the agenda included plans to re-open service lines, increases in COVID-19 testing supplies, improved telehealth access for patients, and the recent release of testing data in a handful of SEARHC communities.
ICS will re-introduce select service lines in the coming weeks after the announcement of Health Mandate 15: Services by Health Care Providers. Services allowed to resume include surgeries and procedures where further delay would cause significant impact on health, livelihood, or quality of life, and require minimal amounts of personal protective equipment (PPE) and patient contact. Dr. Mathur, Otolaryngology (Ear, Nose and Throat) is scheduled to resume minor ear surgeries beginning in May. Patients will be subject to COVID-19 testing and increased safety measures.
“The ICS team is working with medical directors to understand the Governor’s latest health mandate and clarify how each section applies to our services,” said SEARHC Vice President and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Elliot Bruhl. “There is a pressing need for Dr. Mathur to see patients, so we’ve decided to reintroduce select ENT services first. Processes used in Dr. Mathur’s roll-out will guide us while we safely resume additional service lines in the coming weeks.”
Recently introduced telehealth options, including the web based Doxy.me portal, will assist SEARHC in resuming quality services. Face-to-face appointments will be minimal, limiting direct contact and preserving PPE, as mandated. Virtual care provides a resumption of Specialty Care clinics from partner organizations, as positive reviews of Doxy.me continue to be reported by SEARHC providers.
Testing supply numbers were also discussed, including the announcement of test kits set to arrive from Alaska Native Medical Center. The anticipated influx is significant and would lead to additional testing initiatives, including testing nursing home populations, as well as healthcare partners and first responders. Patient testing eligibility, in terms of symptomatic guidelines and no requirement of travel or exposure criteria, will likely remain unchanged as SEARHC works to locate the virus in our communities.
On Tuesday, April 21, SEARHC began reporting community-specific testing data for Sitka, Juneau, Wrangell, Haines and Klawock. The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (ADHSS) recently began reporting community testing data, but ADHSS numbers do not include results of tests completed in-house at SEARHC, including the new rapid tests. At this time, SEARHC will provide weekly data for the five communities with the highest population, as they have surpassed the threshold of tests completed to reduce privacy concerns. For more information on SEARHC’s pandemic response, including Consortium testing data, visit covid19.searhc.org on contact the COVID-19 Hotline at 907.966.8799.