Open Letter to our Community
March 30, 2020
The COVID-19 crisis we are facing today is unprecedented for most of us, yet not the first pandemic for 136-year old Anna Jaques Hospital. Early in our hospital’s history, the 1918 Flu Pandemic hit our community, country and the world. Back then, like today, Anna Jaques and our community were tested – and like we did a century ago – we will overcome this crisis to be strong and vibrant again.
Cases in Massachusetts began to climb exponentially this past week and hospitals around the state are seeing a corresponding uptick in COVID-19 patients. As the virus continues to spread in the communities we serve, we are preparing for an expected surge in patients in the coming days and weeks.
More than 35,000 people have been tested for COVID-19 in Massachusetts. To date, Anna Jaques has tested 122 patients - 10 have been confirmed as positive and 3 patients needed an inpatient stay. Daily updates about COVID-19 patients at Anna Jaques and testing will be available on our website daily, as of Monday, March 30, 2020.
As we enter the third week of the pandemic, I want to share what the hospital and the Beth Israel Lahey Health (BILH) system are doing to address and prepare for the challenges ahead.
Our top priority is keeping our patients, staff, physicians and community safe and protected. Our preparedness efforts are broad and deep, with an emphasis on turning worry into action to be as productive and prepared as we can be. While we hope for the best, we are also preparing for the worst and grateful for the tremendous support and resources of the Beth Israel Lahey Health system.
Among the key areas of focus are:
- Reducing the number of people coming into the hospital. This includes restricting visitors and volunteers, eliminating non-emergency care, and screening every person who walks through our doors for any cold or flu symptoms.
- Conserving protective personal equipment (PPE). We continue to follow the clinical guidance of the CDC and infectious disease experts throughout BILH to be diligent in our use of PPE in the wake of national shortages. We are providing every employee and physician who interacts with patients with appropriate PPE at this time. For Anna Jaques, the supply and procurement of PPE and other equipment is being addressed at a system level. This means if we run short, the Beth Israel Lahey Health system can send more supply our way. Should we experience a significant surge in patients, we will likely need even more PPE than we have currently. Beth Israel Lahey Health is working to secure thousands of additional masks, gowns and gloves on our behalf. Our community has also generously donated PPE which we are keeping in emergency reserve for potential future use. The hospital and the BILH system are eagerly accepting donations of unused, unopened PPE, and we are grateful for this support (Details on PPE donations).
- Increasing the number of people being tested and turn-around time for results. As part of Beth Israel Lahey Health, Anna Jaques is now able to ramp up our testing and receive results within hours, rather than days.
- Re-configuring our nursing floors and expanding capacity. We are optimizing the care of COVID-19 patients, co-locating them and their team of caregivers. We are also coordinating hospital bed and ventilator availability at a system level. A comprehensive plan to expand our bed capacity by up to 50% is also ready to be implemented if/when the need arises.
- Redeployment, training and conservation of staff. Some employees have been redeployed to areas most in need. At the same time, as workloads have diminished in some areas, this week we are asking some staff members to stay safe at home on temporary “standby leave.” Those employees will be paid their full salary and benefits for up to four weeks, and be ready to return to work if/when needed within 24 hours.
- Supporting the emotional needs of our staff. We appreciate the stress and anxiety that some of our staff are understandably experiencing. We strive to be there for them, just as they are there for you, with a BILH Hotline for staff and expanded Employee Assistance Programs and resources. We are also actively soliciting ideas from our staff and leaders to lift everyone’s spirits and keep perspective.
Because necessity is, in fact, the mother of invention, our staff is stepping up to find creative new ways to care for our patients and keep our organization safe. For example, several hospital departments and local physician practices are now offering tele-medicine visits by phone. Lactation consultants are offering FaceTime appointments to support new moms. Our pharmacy is now making their own hand sanitizer. The Cafeteria is selling toilet paper and bread for our staff who are unable to get to the grocery store when these items are on the shelves.
The sense of pride and purpose we share at Anna Jaques is as strong as ever. I am so proud of the work being done 24/7 by staff and providers, and for their devotion to our patients. The outpouring of appreciation from our community – in the form of thank you letters, signs and social media posts, PPE donations, or recognition through our Healthcare Heroes Fund – is beyond measure.
If I may make one plea to our community it is to do your part to help flatten the curve. Wash your hands (while singing the ABCs, of course), practice social distancing of 6 feet, and stay home as much as possible.
Thank you. We will all get through this together.
Anna Jaques Hospital