By Karen Litterer
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact individuals in our communities and around the globe, our healthcare systems are working collaboratively each day with local public health authorities and leaders to prepare for the future. The situation continues to evolve daily, and our plans and preparations are also evolving to meet community needs.
Rest assured Ascension Seton Highland Lakes is prepared to provide the best care for our patients, protect our staff, and preserve needed supplies. We understand the need for clear and accurate information, and, as healthcare leaders in the community, our goal is to help keep you safe and well-informed.
Ascension Seton works closely with the Texas Department of State Health Services and local public health entities to provide COVID-19 tests for individuals in the communities we serve. All Ascension Seton sites of care are prepared to screen and assess possible COVID-19 patients, per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. If a patient tests positive, depending on the level of care needed, he or she might be transferred to the most appropriate Ascension Seton site of care. Other COVID-19-positive patients who do not need hospital care are directed to self-quarantine, where their care will be monitored by the local public health authority.
Individuals who feel they might be experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 should call the Ascension Seton hotline for screening. Available 6 a.m. to midnight, the hotline is staffed by triage registered nurses who will respond to public questions and implement the most up-to-date screenings and protocols to guide patients to the most appropriate care setting, including staying at home, virtual care, or in-person testing at one of our Ascension Texas COVID-19 testing centers. The Ascension Texas hotline is 1-833-919-1680.
Ascension Seton has partnered with Austin Public Health and other local health agencies to set up a number of drive-through testing centers across Central Texas. These drive-through testing centers will only be for pre-screened individuals who are referred to the site by Ascension Seton providers or the local health authority. The sites are designed so community members will never have to leave their vehicle to be tested, which helps ensure both their safety and the safety of our associates.
We are prepared. At this time, we have adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) and supplies to care for patients at all Ascension Seton hospitals, including Ascension Seton Highland Lakes. As part of a national healthcare system, we are taking proactive steps with our distributor and suppliers to ensure access to PPE and supplies. We are arranging expedited shipments directly from manufacturers, assessing alternative products, and taking advantage of our abilities as a national system to make intra-hospital inventory transfers when appropriate. We have also implemented conservation measures for PPE and other supplies in anticipation of further supply chain disruption over the coming months due to COVID-19.
Each Ascension Seton hospital has a plan specific to that facility for a potential future overflow of patients, and we continue to review and revise those plans based on what is happening within our community as well as what is happening in communities that have already seen large COVID-19 outbreaks. For more information, visit healthcare.ascension.org/covid-19.
In an effort to avoid a surge of patients that could overwhelm medical facilities in Central Texas and to support hospital-based caregivers, the single most important thing the community can do to help is to follow orders from local leaders and stay home. If you must go out for essential needs, keep a distance of at least 6 feet from people outside your household.
Ascension Seton Highland Lakes will continue to do what it takes to meet the needs of this community, and we ask you to do your part as well. The situation continues to evolve each day, and we will adapt, as necessary, but we need your help in order to have a fighting chance at overcoming this pandemic. The sooner we act, and with your help, the safer our community will be.
Karen Litterer is the hospital administrator and chief nursing officer at Ascension Seton Highland Lakes in Burnet.