Nashua area hospitals address concerns

NASHUA – The city’s three main hospitals, St. Joseph’s, Southern New Hampshire Medical Center and Dartmouth-Hitchcock are reaching out to the community to again address public concerns about COVID-19 at their facilities.

Timothy McMahon, director of marketing for St. Joseph’s, said while the hospital is a 208-bed acute care facility, they are seeing a low number of suspected COVID-19 patients.

“We are actively planning for an anticipated surge in patients with positive, or suspected-positive COVID-19 test results,” he said. “And we are adjusting our space and staffing needs accordingly.”

McMahon said that from a staffing perspective, St. Joe’s, along with SNMC, are working hard to be able to meet staffing challenges, and has invested significant time and resources to ensure their employees can continue to provide a high level of care to patients while staying healthy themselves. 

“The leadership team at St. Joseph and Southern are having frequent meetings for collaboration and sharing of resources as we gear up to fight to serve our patients, employees and community,” he said. “One concern is diminishing supply of personal protective equipment that can’t meet the high level of demand.”

He added that this “is the No. 1 reason that many of our community members have seen posts on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and elsewhere from St. Joe’s, Southern, and many others requesting donations of N95 masks, face shields, disposable isolation gowns and now homemade masks.”

St. Joe’s acknowledged community members and local businesses have stepped up to meet the challenges, donating thousands of items over the past two weeks. McMahon also stressed the continued importance of social distancing.

“This can be challenging for many, but hopefully will decrease how many patients need hospitalization and critical care at the same time,” he said. “During this very difficult and unprecedented pandemic, the character of our community is on full display, and I believe it is something we will look back on one day with tremendous pride. “

SNMC issued a statement saying that its facility, along with Elliot Hospital, is now accepting donations of sewn face masks to support hospital staff amidst COVID-19 pandemic and critical PPE shortage. St. Joseph also has posted to social media that they, too, are accepting homemade masks.

“In response to an outpouring of offers from the community, Southern New Hampshire Medical Center and Elliot Hospital are now welcoming donations of sewn facemasks. Both organizations currently have the protective gear staff need while caring for patients with COVID-19 and have implemented strategies to conserve the current supply. However, uncertainty regarding how this pandemic will evolve and the national shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) necessitates having alternative options to ensure ongoing safety.”

The statement said the preferred mask pattern has a filter pocket and was selected by infection prevention professionals at both hospitals. This design was chosen, in part, because of its simplicity and ability to be washed.

“Therefore, all masks should be made from material that is 100% cotton and should not have any embellishments, pipe cleaners to twist ties. Elastic is preferred, but ties can be used if elastic is unavailable. Masks of any style that have already been made will be accepted.”

Donors are asked to include a note with their delivery that includes the following information: quantity of masks being donated, whether the pattern includes a filter pocket and the donor’s name and address.

Masks may be delivered to the following locations between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.:

Southern New Hampshire Medical Center, emergency department entrance, 1 Medical Center Drive; the Elliot at River’s Edge, main entrance, 185 Queen City Ave., Manchester. Other hospitals accepting donations, St. Joseph’s, 172 Kinsley St. and Catholic Medical Center, front entrance, 100 McGregor St., Manchester. Questions about donating sewn masks or any other supplies can be directed to donations@solutionhealth.org.

At Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Dr. Edward Marrens, M.D., addressed patient concerns and answers to various questions via video, providing updates on several issues, including testing at their facility.

“We made a decision that we would be testing hospitalized patients, and those requiring in-patient care as well as health care workers,” he said. “This was the decision we made based on the shortage on some of the supplies, including the testing media and the swabs, but also we thought that these were the areas that were most important that impacted the people involved in patients’ care and also those who were in the hospital.”

Marrens said the recommendations now echoed by state department of health and across the United States are for patients experiencing “mild disease,” they are expected to self-isolate at home, “improve and get better.” He added that should patients require a more thorough evaluation, “we are here.”

D-HMD has ramped up its testing, moving to a different analyzer that allows the hospital to test several times throughout the day and get results for both health care workers and patients.

“This allows us to make the best use of our resources and watching what happens,” Marrens said, and impact care as best as possible.”

Understanding that the public is getting its information from different sources, Marrens clarified information about masks and the importance of personal protective equipment.

“They have been in short supply,” he said. “These range from surgical masks, level two masks that loop over your ears, as well as N-95, or tested masks, that more firmly fit the face and respirators. These are all in short supply.”

Marrens reminded that there still are no national guidelines for wearing surgical masks for all employees, realizing that other organizations have made the decision to do this.

“We lack the supplies to be able to do it,” he said. “And it is still not a recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control.”

There are evolving guidelines around health care workers and patients who need protection and D-HMC is dedicated to formalizing these guidelines. Marrens added that is the case around the country, the hospital will have to develop ways to reserve their resources.

Marrens acknowledged that across the world, people are seeking to source materials from limited supplies.

“I want to thank everyone who has been sewing at home to create these other masks made out of fabric,” he said. “These will be helpful in a lot of ways. We may use them as coverings over existing masks, to preserve the integrity of the surgical masks.”

He added that they may be used for other patients at risk, but would not be used in the operating room or procedural suite. He stated they do provide added care.

“These are another example of the outpouring of hope and support from our community,” Marrens said.

Screening patients is another topic that Marrens discussed, stating that like other organizations, they will be limiting the number of entrances and access points to the building.

“We have screenings for both symptoms and for temperature at our entryways 24/7,” he said. “This allows us to more accurately understand the patients, visitors and staff coming into our organization and their symptoms and identify people who may need more follow-up care.”

He stated that, in terms of long-term planning, the hospital will continue to evaluate which cases are elective and which elective cases need to be done in a shorter timeframe.

“We’ve redoubled our effort to look at that,” he said. “That could be the same for other procedures and imaging.”

Marrens reminded people that D-HMC is taking this crisis “day by day,” working with hospitals and with partners across the region and throughout the state.

“We realize that this is an unsettled time,” he said. “We are committed to coming back and being open and honest about what we’re trying to do in responding to your questions.”


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