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SEARHC Takes Steps to Reduce Patient Area Traffic, Suspends Sitka Public Dining Options

SITKA – The SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) Incident Command System (ICS) met the afternoon of Friday, March 20, to discuss the latest responses necessary to ensure the safety of patients and staff from COVID-19. The ICS, which is now meeting bi-weekly, implemented changes to limit the number of persons accompanying patients and eliminate public dining options.

To further protect our patients and providers, SEARHC has limited the number of family members and/or chaperones permitted to accompany a patient to a SEARHC facility to one (1) person per patient. This restriction applies to patients in a treatment room, emergency room, exam room, and hospital. Small children are an exception and not counted as patient accompaniment, but SEARHC urges patients to leave children with childcare if the option is present as to not risk unnecessary potential exposure to COVID-19.

Beginning Monday, March 23, the Sitka Mt. Edgecumbe Medical Center and Sitka Long-Term Care Island Skillet Café dine-in areas will be closed to the public. The Island Skillet will remain open to staff that been administered and passed their mandatory daily health screening. Guests staying in patient housing will receive three hot meals a day by delivery.

“SEARHC continues to take steps to reduce the amount of potential close-contact throughout the Consortium,” said Vice President and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Elliot Bruhl. “We’re working to greatly reduce the chance of COVID-19 contraction by limiting the number of persons in our facilities to only those deemed essential. At this time, we find it necessary to minimize unnecessary traffic in our patient and support service areas to promote a safe environment for patients and staff.”

The ICS also discussed continued efforts to redeploy staff whose service lines have been reduced to recent suspensions and an organizational shift in focus on core care services and the coronavirus response; the operations of the five alternative testing sites which began influenza testing and COVID-19 specimen collecting in five SEARHC communities; and the Patient Health Benefits team offering assistance in securing medical coverage for patients in need of COVID-19 testing and treatment.

For the latest information on the coronavirus, including contact information for care in all communities, visit covid19.searhc.org or call the SEARHC COVID-19 Hotline at 907.966.8799.  For assistance in applying for coverage to receive COVID-19 testing and treatment, contact SEARHC Patient Health Benefits at 907.966.8684.