The outbreak of COVID-19 has brought attention to the important role personal protective equipment plays in keeping health care workers and first responders healthy.
In order to make sure supplies are available as they are needed, hospitals across the region are taking measures to conserve the supply of the gowns, masks, face shields and other equipment that treating an influx of contagious patients would require.
“This is an understandably anxious time for our staff,” SIH spokesperson Rosslind Rice wrote in an email.
The organization’s PPE guidelines are in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO) and Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH). Those guidelines are incredibly important and are followed at all times, Rice said. All caregivers are provided the same level of protection.
“We have gone to great lengths to minimize staff and patient exposure,” Rice wrote in her email.
SIH is taking precautions to reduce the need for PPEs, most of which reduce the chances of exposure to the virus. Those include:
- Establishment of an SIH COVID-19 Hotline, 844-988-7800, to reduce unnecessary clinic and emergency room visits;
- Drive-through testing sites;
- Telehealth and virtual visits;
- Implementation of a no-visitor policy;
- Illness screenings at staff and patient entrances; and
- Triage tents outside emergency departments and dedicated respiratory areas within emergency departments.
As news of the shortage of PPE spread across the region this past week, hospitals began searching for equipment to buy and asking for donations of funds and PPE. A pattern for sewing medical masks circulated on Facebook. Southern Illinoisans began sewing masks to donate.
According to a news release, SIH has been approached by a number of individuals and civic groups with a desire to produce fabric face masks for the organization during the COVID-19 crisis.
SIH is accepting donations of homemade fabric masks, commercially manufactured masks, goggles that provide full eye protection (front and sides) and clear plastic face shields from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday at the entrances of the SIH Corporate Office on the southeast side of University Mall in Carbondale. SIH asks that all masks be free of interfacing.
“Challenges are not new to SIH and Southern Illinois," SIH President and CEO Rex Budde said in the release. "While COVID-19 has changed our lives on a level unseen in many of our lifetimes, it has not changed the willing, community spirit and regional collaboration that has seen us through tough times in the past. On behalf of SIH, thank you for your generosity and desire to help our providers, nurses and staff on the front lines."
In the meantime, SIH urges the community to remain vigilant with social distancing, hand washing, and to stay home if sick.
“While the region to date has only four confirmed cases of COVID-19, now is not the time to let your guard down and return to business as usual," Budde said Friday. "For anyone who believes they have been exposed to or have symptoms of COVID-19, please call the SIH COVID-19 Hotline at 844-988-7800 and allow our clinicians to help you."
A spokesperson for SSM Health in Southern Illinois, which operates Good Samaritan Regional Health Center in Mount Vernon, echoed Budde’s sentiments.
“We are so thankful to live in an area that is working together to assist all of those in the communities we serve. We are honored and humbled by the outpouring of love from our community through this unprecedented time,” a spokesperson wrote in a news release.
Due to the number of inquiries, SSM has established a quick guide for donations:
Consider donating to SSM Health Good Samaritan Foundation. Donations will be directed to the areas of greatest need as this healthcare situation unfolds. Donations may be made online at https://ssmgoodsamaritan.thankyou4caring.org/donation-form. For more information, contact Shawna Bullard, regional director of fund development, at 618-899-2511.
To donate PPE, such as N95 masks, surgical masks and isolation gowns, call 618-899-2512.
While they have not asked the community to sew masks, they may arrive at that point in the future. At that time, they will communicate a common pattern that will be the most effective. To be added to the communication list for handmade masks, call 618-899-2512.