Safety first. Protecting patients at hospitals and clinics during COVID-19

May 28th, 2020

Since the novel coronavirus swept across the world, it seems almost everything has changed. We’re practicing physical distancing, wearing masks and refraining from gathering with more than 10 people at a time.

No matter where you go, familiar spaces look different. As UCHealth methodically resumes medically-necessary surgeries and opens clinics, you’ll notice UCHealth clinics and hospital look a little different but it’s all for one reason: safety.

Hospital safety during COVID includes continuously cleaning regularly used areas and equipment, like this women cleaning wheelchairs outside the hospital
Hospital safety during COVID includes continuously cleaning regularly used areas and equipment. Photo: UCHealth

Hospital safety during COVID

“We have all sorts of protective measures set up the minute you walk through our doors to the minute you leave,” said Dr. Jamie Teumer, longtime emergency physician and medical director of the emergency departments at UCHealth Longs Peak Hospital in Longmont and UCHealth Medical Center of the Rockies in Loveland. “There is no reason to let any fear deter you from coming to us.”

Here are a few ways that UCHealth is ensuring the safety of patients, staff and visitors even as the number of people who require hospitalization because of COVID-19 declines.

Designated areas for COVID-19 patients

All patients entering a UCHealth facility are screened for COVID-19. And some patients scheduling surgeries or certain high-risk procedures will be tested for COVID-19.

All potential and confirmed COVID-19 patients are isolated in negative-pressure rooms that have special air filtration systems that circulate the air and remove small particles, including viruses. Patients coming by ambulance who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms are screened and cared for in one of these rooms.

Cleaning

UCHealth facilities are frequently cleaned by professional hospital environmental services experts who use enhanced sterilization procedures. Housekeeping teams have years of experience in cleaning and disinfecting hospitals, clinics and patient rooms and cleaning methods exceed national standards.

All high-touch areas are frequently cleaned and pens, tablets and check-in desks are cleaned after each patient and before the next patient.

Plexiglas shields are being installed around check-in desks, cafeteria registers and in other areas of UCHealth facilities.

Plexiglas is just one hospital safety measure during the COVID-19 pandemic as seen at this front check in desk.
Plexiglas is just one hospital safety measure during COVID-19. Photo: UCHealth.

Waiting room

Check-in is available online through My Health Connection. At some facilities, patients may wait outside in their vehicle and then enter the facility when called by a staff member. The patient then would proceed directly into an exam room. This change helps reduce wait times and the number of people in a waiting room.

In UCHealth waiting rooms, signs direct patients to wear a mask and use hand sanitizer. Chairs have been placed at least 6 feet apart to encourage physical distancing.

All UCHealth staff wear masks and any person entering a UCHealth facility is asked to wear a mask. Any surgical or a cloth mask from home is adequate.

Physical distancing

Along with changes in waiting areas, UCHealth is limiting the number of people on an elevator to maintain physical distancing guidelines.

Visitor restrictions are in place, and every visitor is screened for COVID-19 prior to entering a UCHealth facility.

Cafeterias have only to-go food available and salad bars are temporarily closed.

For patients having surgery, fewer surgical suites are in use to limit the number of people in the area.

Virtual visits

signs in a lobby explaining hospital safety during covid.
Signs are placed throughout UCHealth facilities to reinforce physical distancing and other hospital safety measures during COVID-19. Photo: UCHealth.

Patients experiencing symptoms that indicate a life-threatening issue – chest pain, stroke symptoms, severe abdominal pain, severe lacerations or broken bones – should not hesitate to call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.

“If you were going to come see us before COVID-19, you should be coming now. Period,” Teumer said. “We are seeing people who should have come to us sooner, whether for a heart attack, stroke, infection or other issues, like appendicitis. Morbidity and mortality has increased because people are afraid of coming to see us. That delay is causing loss of tissue, loss of lives, and it is not necessary. We’ve done all the measures to make you safe.”

Care for chronic health conditions should not be delayed, he said.  Contact your doctor to continue monitoring chronic health conditions.

Patients who do not need care in an Emergency Room may visit an Urgent Care clinic or do a Virtual Visit or Virtual Urgent Care visit. UCHealth offers Virtual Visits for more than 700 clinics across UCHealth. During a Virtual Visit, your medical provider may advise you to see a medical professional in person. Call your provider to set up a Virtual Visit or make an appointment though My Health Connection.

Virtual Urgent Care can be used 24/7 for medical problems such as seasonal allergies, pink eye, sinus infection or urinary tract infection. You do not need to be a UCHealth patient or have insurance to set up a Virtual Urgent Care appointment, though patients will have to have a My Health Connection account to register.

Laboratory draws

In Colorado Springs, patients can have their lab work done without getting out of their vehicle.

“We are open and ready to help. Our primary care, urgent care, specialty clinics and hospitals are open,” Teumer said. “We know that our patients may have questions, and we want to reassure everyone that we’re taking all the necessary steps at all UCHealth locations to ensure safety for our patients, visitors, physicians, advanced practice practitioners and staff.”

About the author

Kati Blocker has always been driven to learn and explore the world around her. And every day, as a writer for UCHealth, Kati meets inspiring people, learns about life-saving technology, and gets to know the amazing people who are saving lives each day. Even better, she gets to share their stories with the world.

As a journalism major at the University of Wyoming, Kati wrote for her college newspaper. She also studied abroad in Swansea, Wales, while simultaneously writing for a Colorado metaphysical newspaper.

After college, Kati was a reporter for the Montrose Daily Press and the Telluride Watch, covering education and health care in rural Colorado, as well as city news and business.

When she's not writing, Kati is creating her own stories with her husband Joel and their two young children.