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COVID-19: Gritman Medical Center’s emergency response

Q: How is Gritman preparing for the COVID-19 emergency – can you handle a surge in patients if that occurs in our area?

A: We have been monitoring, planning and preparing for this since December.

For many years, Gritman has implemented and practiced a strict emergency management protocol called Incident Command System to help us effectively respond to all types of situations – from floods to mass casualty crises. Recognized by the Federal Emergency Management Administration, ICS is one of the most used methods for emergency management.

Gritman officially established ICS on Feb. 29 for COVID-19, which allowed us to immediately reallocate staff, resources and facilities to the most critical and urgent needs based on the rapidly evolving emergency. With ICS, we moved many of our staff into new roles and a streamlined organizational structure to focus on things like:

Staffing: With the temporary reduction in patient volumes for some care areas and services, we are reallocating those team members to help meet critical needs through a new organization-wide labor pool. We can quickly and flexibly assign a team member to whatever administrative, support or clinical function the moment may require.

Facilities: We are closely watching the impact COVID-19 is having on other hospitals around the country and world. We know we may need more patient beds on relatively short notice. While we are licensed as a 25-bed Critical Access Hospital, we have the potential capacity to “surge” up to 43 rooms.

Supplies and Equipment: We have had all of our critical supplies and equipment on an emergency system-wide inventory control process for many weeks. We have found additional stocks from around the region and we have been looking at innovative ways to extend the useful life of certain things like protective masks and goggles. In addition, we are closely watching how other hospitals are adapting their equipment and methodologies to meet an unprecedented demand for care.

We want you to know that, as your hospital and clinic system, we’ve been hard at work preparing for the difficult job ahead. Working as one unified team, we are ready to meet the challenges presented by COVID-19, but to succeed in the fight, we urgently need your help.

Please follow Gov. Brad Little’s extreme emergency order and stay at home, practice social distancing, and wash your hands. Working together, we can slow the spread of COVID-19 and give our health care system the time and capacity it needs to care for patients.

Thank you for your help and for the trust you place in us.