St. Charles Parish Hospital is currently treating over 20 patients for coronavirus, and this week hospital CEO Terrell Neal spoke candidly and confidently about the state of affairs at the facility.
Neal said the 20 people being treated include those who have received positive coronavirus tests, as well as patients awaiting test results but who are presumed to have the virus based on their symptoms.
“Physicians are treating symptoms,” he said. “The results of the testing provide guidance on the need to isolate or quarantine the patients.”
Any coronavirus test given at St. Charles Parish Hospital is processed at Ochsner’s Jefferson Parish location. Testing turnaround time has greatly improved, Neal said, with the average test result now ready in 24-48 hours.
There are no plans for the hospital to begin analyzing its own tests. As a smaller facility it wouldn’t be fiscally responsible to establish all the processes necessary for it happen, Neal said.
Additionally, the hospital has not been utilized as an overflow facility for coronavirus patients from other parishes, but Neal did not rule out that happening in the future.
“It would depend on where the need was in the area,” he said, explaining Ochsner has a regional referral program in place which monitors the caseload numbers of certain illnesses and needs and the capacity of each hospital across the Ochsner system.
As one area or location gets overloaded, patients are often sent to other facilities.
“It goes both ways,” Neal said, explaining patients being treated in St. Charles can also be sent other places if there is a need. “We receive patients frequently into our facility … this was before the virus as well … the process has always been in place.”
As far as the emergency room at the Luling hospital, Neal said things are running as smoothly as possible.
“The team in the emergency room has done a really good job of screening patients coming in to keep the rest of our patients as safe as possible,” he said. “Just because this (pandemic) is going on, doesn’t mean other emergencies aren’t happening.”
Patients entering the emergency room who have a high fever or other tell-tale coronavirus symptoms are quickly separated from the general waiting room area in attempts to keep all patients as safe as possible.
An extremely positive report coming from the hospital is there is no shortage of personal protective equipment, such as masks or gowns.
“We get a daily update and we share that information with our teams,” Neal said of PPE quantity counts. “We started sending out daily updates to our teams of the frequently used supplies.”
The updates, Neal said, will hopefully ease any apprehensions the medical personnel may have about not being fully protected during shifts.
“Ochsner Health has been amazing with their supply team to help secure PPE,” he said. “It’s really a blessing to our hospital to be connected with a program that is so efficient.”
Up to this point, Neal said the Luling hospital has not loaned, or been asked to loan, out any equipment to any other site.
“We would look at our current and potential patients and determine if we would potentially need it,” he said of loaning out medical equipment. “If we would need it, we would hold onto it.”
Neal said if the hospital would have a low likelihood of needing the equipment for immediate use, he would have a hard time not loaning out equipment that could help someone. He noted any equipment belonging to the parish would have to be specially considered and a fair market value would have to be charged.
Throughout the pandemic, Neal said he has seen a tremendous outpouring of support from the community – from people who have been volunteering to provide meals and other support for the health care workers to people offering to mow the lawns of medical personnel.
An outpouring of support is happening within the walls of the hospital as well, he said.
“It’s just been amazing to see the commitment and compassion of our team”, he said. “We’re busier now than we usually are and to see everyone work together to support each other is amazing … I’m truly humbled to be able to work with such an amazing group of people.”