FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. – The Commanding General for 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and Fort Campbell, Maj. Gen. Brian Winski, visited Blanchfield Army Community Hospital Tuesday for a first-hand look at the hospital’s preparations to respond to the coronavirus, COVID-19 pandemic.
The hospital established a drive-up clinic outside the hospital for patients with appointments and referred by the Nurse Advice Line or BACH’s Appointment Line. During this screening process, medical staff may conduct additional screening to determine if a test is necessary. Once a test for COVID-19 is administered, it is sent out for processing and patients with mild symptoms are advised to self-quarantine at home while awaiting test results.
The hospital commander shared with Maj. Gen. Winski that the hospital began cancelling non-urgent outpatient appointments to be rescheduled at a later date in order to continue to protect patients from possible exposure and free-up medical personnel to screen and care for potential COVID-19 patients.
“By rescheduling routine appointments, we will decrease the amount of traffic through our medical services and reduce exposure of patients exhibiting COVID-19 or other disease symptoms to our beneficiaries,” said Col. Patrick T. Birchfield, hospital commander. “This will also allow our healthcare team time to care for urgent medical needs and make preparations to care for potential COVID-19 patients.”
BACH is moving all non-COVID-19 related primary care appointments from the hospital to the outlying Byrd and Screaming Eagle Medical Homes beginning Friday, March 27. The general was shown a portion of the primary care clinic space in the hospital that has been converted to COVID-19 clinic space. It is accessible from the drive-up clinic and separated from the main hospital. There, healthcare providers can perform additional screening of patients under investigation away from the general population to prevent the spread of illness.
Next the general visited a newly established branch of the hospital’s appointment line center that is operating seven days a week in addition to the Nurse Advice Line to answer calls from concerned beneficiaries. The COVID Triage Center is occupied with BACH medical staff who communicate with beneficiaries by telephone and TRICARE® Online Patient Portal Secure Messaging to respond to the increased volume of calls and messages from beneficiaries.
Lastly, Maj. Gen. Winski toured an inpatient ward to see how BACH would support COVID-19 patients requiring admission and ventilator care. He spoke with medical providers to get a feel for their capabilities and to see how he could support the hospital as its staff assists in the nation’s attempts to “flatten the curve” and reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Other measures the hospital has taken includes transitioning pharmacy services to pick-up and drop-off only in order to reduce the wait time with pharmacies and limit the number of beneficiaries in the space at one time. The hospital now requires patients and staff to answer a short medical screening and use hand sanitizer before entering the facility. For the safety of patients and staff, BACH changed its visitor policy to reduce the amount of people coming through the hospital.
“This is not a decision made lightly. While we understand the importance of family support during hospitalization, preventing or limiting the number of visitors reduces the risk of spreading the coronavirus. This requires us to temporarily adjust our visiting policy in order to keep our patients and visitors safe from infection,” said Birchfield. “We continue to assess the situation daily and will implement the measures necessary to preserve the force and serve our beneficiaries during this unprecedented time.”
BACH provides health service support to prevent, detect, and treat COVID-19 in the Fort Campbell area in order to protect the population and preserve readiness.
Beneficiaries can learn more about COVID-19 by visiting the CDC website at www.cdc.gov.