By Gail M. Williams
Muleshoe Journal Correspondent
In the midst of a pandemic, Muleshoe Area Medical Center is prepared to diagnose and stabilize patients who present with COVID-19 symptoms, according to hospital administrator Dennis Fleenor.
“Because we are a Critical Access Hospital, our role and duty is to stabilize and transport the patient. Unless someone is presenting with severe respiratory distress, they will be transported to a facility that will provide care for them,” Fleenor said.
MAMC is working in conjunction with all surrounding major hospitals, including UMC, Covenant Health, Lubbock Heart and Surgical Hospital, and Grace Medical Center.
University Medical Center of Lubbock is connected with Muleshoe Area Medical Center through a telemedicine network that assists Muleshoe in emergency cases and prevents unnecessary transfers to UMC.
“UMC and all the hospitals are in preparation for COVID-19 cases,” Fleenor said. “We here at the hospital and at Park View Nursing Care Center are following CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services), CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and the state of Texas in reference to guidelines that are being put in place.”
Fleenor points out that the mandates are ever-evolving. Governor Greg Abbott holds regular press conferences to keep the public informed.
At this time, MAMC has sufficient testing supplies, ventilators and PPE (personal protective equipment) for patients and staff.
“We have done a number of tests,” Fleenor said. “Every test so far has been negative.”
First identified in the 1960s, the coronavirus has many different strains, including SARS and MERS.
“Saying ‘coronavirus,’ is like saying there’s a tree in the backyard,” Fleenor said. “Coronavirus is like a tree. It’s been around for a while. SARS, MERS – they’re all corona viruses. COVID 19 is a new mutation of the coronavirus.”
In COVID-19, ‘CO’ stands for ‘corona,’ ‘VI’ for ‘virus,’ ‘D’ for disease and ‘19’ for 2019. There are many types of human coronaviruses including some that commonly cause mild upper-respiratory tract illnesses.
“Most people that become infected with COVID 19 are able to recover at home without help or support,” Fleenor said. “There are very few that require hospitalization and even fewer that end up having to be on a ventilator. However, the data percentages and stats changes every day. The more reporting and more testing there is, the more stats vary, but the majority of cases recover at home.
“We’re getting a different story from New York, New Orleans, Washington state and other areas.”
According to The Texas Department of State Health Services, as of Saturday, April 4, 6,110 cases and 105 deaths were reported in Texas. Lubbock County had 138 cases and four deaths.
Fleenor compared the spread of COVID-19 to the flu, saying that people believe they are immune because they’ve had a flu vaccine. However, there are many different types of flu and not all of them respond to the vaccine. “This year, the flu season was relatively light. In the United States, we had 16,000 deaths directly related to the flu,” Fleenor said. “What I’m saying is that we should have been taking the same type of precautions for the flu that we’re now taking for COVID-19.”
Precautions for COVID-19 include avoiding gatherings of 10 or more people, practicing social distancing of 10 feet or more, coughing into your shoulder or elbow, frequently washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, using hand sanitizer, and avoiding touching your mouth, eyes or nose. Medical personnel are required to wear face masks. Recent guidelines suggest that everyone should wear masks, scarves or anything that will cover your mouth and nose.
“Those that have underlying conditions, such as COPD or asthma, those that are immunocompromised, are the ones that have to be most cautious,” Fleenor said.
Muleshoe Area Medical Center and Park View Nursing Care Center are taking the guidelines very seriously. The public can communicate with them via Facebook.
“Parkview is on complete lockdown with no visitors,” Fleenor said. “Only employees are allowed to enter, and if anybody displays any type of illness, they are not allowed in. Only essential personnel are being let in, and all employees are being screened as well.”
At this time, NO visitors will be allowed at Muleshoe Area Medical Center.
“Exceptions will be made on a case-by-case basis and include visitors for any patients nearing the end of life,” according to the Facebook post.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused people around the world to change the way they work, play, learn and worship. Schedules are disrupted, and the future is uncertain.
According to a document titled HHSC Launches Statewide COVID-19 Mental Health Support Line, “Texas Health and Human Services recently launched a 24/7 statewide mental health support line to help Texans experiencing anxiety, stress or emotional challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This new resource offers COVID-19-related mental health support for all Texans. People can call the Statewide COVID-19 Mental Health Support Line 24 hours a day, 7 days a week toll-free at 833-986-1919.”
To learn more, go to Texas Health and Human Services.
PLEASE NOTE: Coronavirus and COVID-19 statistics and situations change daily, and the preceding numbers or notices may have been revised. To learn more, go to Texas Health and Human Services or the CDC website. Notices from Muleshoe Area Medical Center can be found on their Facebook page.