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WellSpan teams prepare for coronavirus with training and information

March 12, 2020

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Tent in front of WellSpan Good Samaritan Hospital in Lebanon, PA.

Tent in front of WellSpan Good Samaritan Hospital in Lebanon, PA.

WellSpan Health has been working continuously to prepare for the COVID-19 coronavirus issue, as Pennsylvania continues to see an increase in confirmed cases.

"As part of our continued preparation for the COVID-19 coronavirus, we are planning for the potential of a larger-scale response to this issue,” said R. Hal Baker, M.D., senior vice president of WellSpan Health, and co-leader of the health system’s COVID-19 incident command response. "This includes developing a temporary outdoor patient screening and testing area for patients, who may have been exposed to the COVID-19 coronavirus."

"Doing screening and testing in an open-air setting limits the potential spread of the disease and will help us preserve our negative airflow rooms in our hospitals," he added.

Temporary screening areas are currently being validated by staff at all WellSpan acute care hospitals.

"We are now in the preparation phase to utilize these outdoor locations to allow our care teams to safely evaluate and collect test samples for patients who may have been exposed to COVID-19," Baker said. "We will begin using these locations for screenings when appropriate and as needed."

Access to Information

"We want to remain a trusted source of health information for our patients and our communities," Baker said. "We understand people are concerned for their health and safety, and we want to be a trusted partner to deliver care in this situation too."

WellSpan is committed to providing trusted information to patients, medical professionals and the community.

The health system has established a web page for information and updates on the COVID-19 coronavirus: WellSpan.org/Coronavirus. The page includes general information about COVID-19, links to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Pa. Department of Health web pages on the issue. In addition, the page includes “frequently asked questions” and a dedicated information area for medical professionals.

This webpage will be updated regularly as new information becomes available.

Prevention and Treatment

"Information is key, but we are asking our patients to do their part too. Remember, the best way to prevent from getting sick is to wash your hands, try to not touch your face, and avoid contact with people who are sick," Baker said.

He also noted that people should remember to cover their mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve when coughing or sneezing. In addition, it's important to clean surfaces frequently, including counter tops, light switches, cell phones and other frequently touched items. Lastly, if you are sick, stay home and avoid contact with others.

WellSpan encourages patients to consider the following guidelines for assessment and treatment: If you have recently traveled to impacted countries or areas, or had contact with someone known to have tested positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus, and you are experiencing respiratory symptoms, we recommend you contact your healthcare provider before going to the doctor’s office or hospital. This will allow you to coordinate your care with your provider while minimizing risk to others.

Patients can also use a new automated chat feature available on WellSpan.org/Coronavirus, to help determine whether they may or may not be at risk for the virus.

For convenience, and to further protect others, consider scheduling a WellSpan Online Urgent Care appointment. With Online Urgent Care, patients can connect with a physician 24/7 using your computer, smartphone or tablet – whenever or wherever they need care. To access WellSpan Online Urgent Care, visit WellSpan.org/OUC

About WellSpan Health

WellSpan Health is an integrated health system that serves the communities of central Pennsylvania and northern Maryland. The organization includes more than 1,600 employed physicians and advanced practice clinicians, a regional behavioral health organization, a home care organization, eight respected hospitals, approximately 20,000 employees, and more than 200 patient care locations. WellSpan is a charitable, mission-driven organization, committed to exceptional care for all, lifelong wellness and healthy communities. Visit WellSpan.org.