Bassett Healthcare Network outlines plans to restore services

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COOPERSTOWN — Bassett Healthcare Network is resuming elective outpatient surgeries and non-urgent procedures.

In addition, the network is undertaking restoration of the full range of health care services previously curtailed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The state Health Department ordered the suspension of non-essential outpatient procedures statewide in March because of the coronavirus crisis. Nearly two months later, the state is allowing some hospitals upstate to resume services, including all five Bassett Healthcare Network hospitals: Bassett Medical Center in Cooperstown, A.O. Fox Hospital in Oneonta, Little Falls Hospital, O’Connor Hospital in Delhi, and Cobleskill Regional Hospital. 

Ramping up of services

“The acute-crisis phase of the pandemic appears to be over, though COVID-19 will remain with our region for some time,” said Bassett Healthcare Network President and CEO William F. Streck. “We are now entering a new phase, one that is informed by our success over the past couple of months responding to COVID-19. We are cautiously, but confidently implementing plans to safely expand services across the Bassett network.”

“We need to get back to the business of providing health care for the individuals and families living in the communities served by the Bassett system,” said Dr. Streck. “There will still be people who need treatment for the coronavirus, but the greater need now is for routine health care and the necessary medical attention people may have put off because of the pandemic.”

Bassett Healthcare Network Chief Clinical Officer Steven Heneghan said the hospital has seen a trend in emergency department visits that indicates people mistakenly put off necessary care because of COVID-19. There have been patients with cardiac and pulmonary disease present with higher-acuity symptoms due to delayed care, he said.

“People should not hesitate to seek the care they need,” Dr. Heneghan said. “We have been very successful protecting our patients, staff and the community throughout the pandemic. In fact, our practitioners have completed over 71,500 in-person and telemedicine patient visits. However, that number is about 60 percent of the visits typically expected in a two-month period during normal network operations.”

Safe to come in for care

Bassett Medical Center President William LeCates said doctors, nurses and other health care professionals are extremely well-versed in the processes and practices that prevent the spread of infectious diseases.

“We adapted those processes for COVID-19, and those precautions will remain in place for the foreseeable future,” said Dr. LeCates.

Among the safe care processes in place across Bassett Healthcare Network:

Proper protective gear for staff

Visitors and patients provided masks

Prescreening for symptoms

Temperature checks at entrances

Frequent disinfecting and cleaning

Frequent hand sanitizing

Social distancing measures

Separate care areas for COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients

COVID-19 hotline, 607-547-5555, for triaging possible covid patients

E-check-in and e-visits minimize people in a given area

Antibody and COVID-19 testing

There is considerable interest in COVID-19 antibody testing, as well as continued access to testing for the coronavirus infection. Since the start of the pandemic, Bassett has tested more than 5,500 individuals for COVID-19. The network also recently began offering the antibody test to employees and to patients who have a physician’s order.

In addition, and in response to demand from the business community, Bassett has also established a team of health care professionals who are available to provide COVID-19 testing for employees.

Dr. Charles Hyman, senior attending physician in Infectious Diseases, cautioned, “It is important to understand the current limitations of antibody testing. While the antibody test will tell us if someone has been infected with this coronavirus, it remains unknown at this time whether a positive test means the person is protected from re-infection.”

He said, “Until we know more, social distancing, good hand hygiene and adherence to other recommended precautions remain the best methods of protecting against COVID-19.”

Getting back
to more normal operations

Bassett Healthcare Network is undertaking the careful expansion of hospital and clinic services using a phased-in approach over the next couple of months. Patients who had elective outpatient surgeries and non-urgent procedures postponed due to the pandemic will be contacted about rescheduling.

Primary and specialty care clinics are also staffing up to handle more patient visits; individuals needing care are encouraged to call their practitioner’s office about an appointment.

“We are tremendously appreciative of the community’s support and the incredible effort over the past two months of our practitioners, nurses and other front-line staff who have cared for our patients. This collective effort helped make the region’s response to COVID-19 successful and will continue to be important to our success in the months ahead,” Streck said.

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