Hand-sewn masks offer colorful pick-me-up in COVID-19 preparations
By Richard DeFord
The United States has seen several wars that have required men and women to leave their families to fight for freedom. While our nation is still engaged in conflicts around the globe, silent heroes at home are preparing to fight another fight. Although, this time, the enemy cannot be seen with the naked eye. Enter the heroes of today’s battle in the COVID-19 pandemic: healthcare workers.
Doctors, nurses, nurses’ aides, environmental services workers, lab, dietary, radiology, respiratory and registration personnel are working around the clock, altering their usual schedules, policies and protocols with patient safety in mind. And their hard work does not go unnoticed. Slater resident Amber Giger wants to thank these healthcare “warriors” from Fitzgibbon Hospital during a recent visit. Although as of this writing, Fitzgibbon had not yet cared for a COVID-19 positive patient, the leadership team has spent many hours in planning, preparations and considering facilities modifications to help minimize the risk of potential virus spread.
“I was a patient there this past Sunday through Wednesday,” said Giger. “I actually had to come in by ambulance for something unrelated to the virus. Everyone was wearing protective gear, and I remember hearing, ‘It’s time for everyone to clean their stations’ on the hospital’s intercom several times per day. I never had a fear of being exposed while I was there.”
More than two weeks ago Fitzgibbon Hospital began screening employees before they reported to work. Limiting the possibility of exposure for patients and co-workers is an important part of Fitzgibbon’s preparation strategies. In addition, overhead announcements are made at periodic intervals throughout the day for all staff to “clean their areas.” While the Environmental Services staff is there to constantly keep patient rooms, high traffic areas and bathrooms clean, employees system-wide are wiping down “high-touch areas” such as office door knobs, doors, keyboards, telephones countertops, name badges and furniture with a properly-prepared bleach solution.
Employees in protective gear also are staffing a tent placed at the Emergency Department, front lobby and entrance to the Fitzgibbon Medical Clinic which houses family practice, women’s care, surgical services, mental health and chiropractic clinics. The goal of the tents is to provide a barrier which prevents patients in waiting areas from co-mingling with other patients and staff. It is a significant resource and staffing commitment for the hospital to implement these tents, but it is an important aspect of keeping everyone safe. The tent at the Emergency Department has even been manned through periodic bouts of rain and cold over the last two weeks.
In addition, the hospital reserved several parking spaces in front of the Emergency Department for individuals with a doctor’s order to receive a curbside COVID-19 test without ever having to leave their vehicle. This provides convenience for the patient and protection for others, because the patient never has to leave the comfort and safety of their own vehicles to receive the nasal swab. Fitzgibbon Hospital cautions that a doctor’s order is required to receive the test, as testing supplies continue to be a concern nationwide.
While hospitals across the country are reporting supply shortages, Fitzgibbon Hospital is thankful for the many individuals in the community who have showed their support to these frontline warriors by providing hand-sewn masks. These masks provide a barrier for “worried well” individuals who are accompanying patients as well as an extra layer for staff in certain areas. In addition, these masks aide in the preservation of the N95 “respirator” masks, which are so important to those interacting with potential COVID-19 patients. The donated hand-sewn masks can be worn over the N95s to help keep them cleaner; and the colorful fabrics are not only washable but also are a welcome sight for worried patients and sometimes weary staff.
“I had such a wonderful experience, and I would love for everyone who helped me to know how grateful I am that they were there during this scary time. They are heroes to me,” said Giger.
Fitzgibbon Hospital maintains a special web page to inform the public about updates on the COVID-19 pandemic, as soon as they are available. In addition, you can also find the organization’s visitor’s policy as well as a pattern and specifications for donated surgical masks. Visit www.fitzgibbon.org/covid19. It is also more important than ever to establish yourself as a patient with a primary care provider. If you do not have a primary care provider, Marshall Family Practice inside the Fitzgibbon Medical Clinic is taking new patients. Call (660) 886-7800 option 3 for an appointment.