911 is a call no one ever hopes to make.
But if that day comes, a well-rehearsed, collaborative system should respond and deliver the best care possible.
During the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, having a strong medical community in place is more critical than ever.
“We always have a lot of cooperation from our hospitals and other agencies, but now even more so as we’re under the pressure of this new virus,” said Jon Howell, CEO of Huntsville Emergency Medical Services, Inc. (HEMSI). “That helps our community know they’ve got a very capable and very well-practiced system that can take care of them in case of an emergency.”
It’s all hands on deck within the local medical community as COVID-19 spreads across the U.S. As a result, agencies are working closely together to make sure their response plans are in sync.
David Spillers, CEO of Huntsville Hospital, said they hold daily calls with leadership across the Huntsville Hospital Health System to ensure they have enough resources to meet demand. They’re also exploring the possibility of moving patients from the hospital’s main campus to other affiliate hospitals if the need arises.
“We’ll continue to look at those opportunities to make sure we have space for the most critical patients when needed,” he said.
Whenever there’s a community challenge like this, whether it be hurricanes on the Gulf or tornadoes here, everyone rallies around and we do what needs to be done to get through it.”
Spillers said they’re also in regular contact with their physician network of several hundred area doctors. Because Huntsville Hospital operates multiple urgent cares, they’re staying in touch to ensure each center follows protocol for who should receive a coronavirus test.
Influenza is still very prevalent in Alabama, meaning many people are mistaking flu symptoms for COVID-19. To treat those with a broad range of upper respiratory illnesses, Huntsville Hospital launched a Fever & Flu Clinic this week on 120 Governors Drive.
A drive-thru COVID-19 testing clinic will also open Friday, March 20, at John Hunt Park. The site will only serve individuals who have been evaluated and have a written physician’s order for COVID-19 testing.
“Whenever there’s a community challenge like this, whether it be hurricanes on the Gulf or tornadoes here, everyone rallies around and we do what needs to be done to get through it,” Spillers said.
Crestwood Medical Center is also taking steps to protect patients, caregivers and the community. CEO Pam Hudson said they are communicating daily with other healthcare providers and doctors throughout the area.
Everyone they’ve spoken with has the same questions and concerns, she said.
“Right now, the focus is on how to keep healthcare workers safe so they can keep working and we don’t jeopardize that pipeline to be able to access care,” Hudson said.
Like other medical facilities, Hudson said Crestwood is evaluating “what if” scenarios and ensuring supplies are available to protect employees and patients.
“We are much stronger together, much more effective together,” she said. “That has always been the way we have worked in this community in our emergency management instances and we need to continue it.”
Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) District Medical Officer Dr. Karen Landers said they are working in tandem with the Health Alert Network (HAN) and Alabama Hospital Association (ALAHA) as coronavirus develops across the state. ADPH leaders, including Dr. Landers, are also part of state task forces to help safe guard Alabamians against COVID-19.
ADPH’s website, alabamapublichealth.gov, remains the best source of information about COVID-19 in Alabama.
“It’s very, very important to ensure our physicians and hospitals get the most up-to-date information and that has been something we have continuously worked on,” Landers said.
I think you’re seeing a very well-organized community and a lot of thoughtful people thinking through the best way to get through this.”
Although COVID-19 exposure and response is evolving daily, Spillers said Huntsville medical professionals are putting themselves between the virus and patients to provide the best treatment possible.
“I think you’re seeing a very well-organized community and a lot of thoughtful people thinking through the best way to get through this,” he said.
Wondering how you can help during the coronavirus outbreak? Here are eight ways you can be a good neighbor.
Stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news on HuntsvilleAL.gov/COVID19.