Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, New Hampshire hospitals and their front-line professionals have been vigilant in their planning for how best to keep New Hampshire’s citizens safe and providing the best possible care to those in need of medical assistance battling the virus.
As we begin the process of responsibly resuming health care services in our hospitals and work our way back to a more normal health care environment, those same hospitals and staff have been planning to make sure all patients coming back to receive the medical care they need will do so in a safe and secure environment. Every hospital will have procedures in place to ensure the segregation of COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients needing treatment. A key to being able to resume health care services is adequate testing supplies and equipment, as well as the assurance that hospital personnel will have the personal protective equipment (PPE) necessary to ensure the health and safety of themselves and their patients. Each hospital will establish its own timeline for resuming these services based upon their ability to do so safely and effectively. Patients can enter hospitals knowing no one takes the delivery of health care more seriously than New Hampshire’s doctors, nurses and other health care professionals who have so capably led their institutions through this crisis.
In mid-March, New Hampshire hospitals voluntarily suspended all elective and non-urgent procedures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, preserve PPE and capacity to hospitalize patients, and support efforts to ensure that hospitals could both safely and effectively provide health care to all of their patients.
As a result of Governor Sununu’s executive orders to ensure social distancing and the closure of non-essential businesses, coupled with vigilant health care efforts undertaken by New Hampshire hospitals, New Hampshire has thus far avoided a large surge of COVID-19 positive patients that would stress and potentially overwhelm hospital capacity. Thanks to a united effort, working with federal and state officials, health care agencies throughout the state and, most importantly, New Hampshire citizens that stepped up and did their part to prevent spreading of the virus, we are in a position to move forward today.
New Hampshire hospitals have worked with DHHS Commissioner Shibinette on guidance to responsibly resume time-sensitive health care services. Following this guidance, each hospital will phase-in procedures on a timetable that reflects their individual ability to deliver safe and effective health care in accordance with:
- Clinical judgement in partnership with patients and families
- Established guidelines ensuring safe segregation and treatment of COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients
- Sufficient availability of personal protective equipment to ensure the safety of both patients and staff
- Adequate testing supplies and equipment
- Alignment with established guidelines developed by the Centers for Disease Control and other regulatory agencies
- Flexible policies permitting immediate response to any COVID-19 surge
As part of their mission to deliver safe quality care, hospitals will continue to engage in vigilant infection prevention measures to reduce the risk of any infection while implementing additional protocols in response to the pandemic. Those prevention measures and protocols have included enhanced cleaning protocols, universal screening for risk factors and symptoms of COVID-19 or other infectious diseases, changing patient flow and waiting areas to accommodate social distancing, curbside and outdoor testing to better identify and isolate suspected COVID-19 patients and universal masking for patients upon entry to the facility. All of these measures will remain in place to reduce the risk of spreading any infectious disease, including COVID-19, and help to keep patients safe.
Hospitals statewide have the available capacity to meet the needs of all patients, including those with COVID-19. We will continue to partner with public health and others as we monitor the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and be prepared for periodic and or unpredictable increases in the number of cases that may occur throughout the state and region over the next several months so that any necessary adjustments can be made. This gradual phase-in of health care services will be important for the health of the patients and communities our hospitals serve.
Keeping patients safe through vigilant prevention measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 is a priority for every hospital in New Hampshire, and they remain committed to protecting both patients and health care workers as we move into this new phase of health care delivery.