To Local Leaders,
I am writing to provide an update on our preparations to serve our community as we all work together in the face of this public health crisis.
Confirmed COVID-19 Positive Patient (Mission Hospital, Asheville)
Yesterday, Mission Hospital in Asheville was notified that we have a patient in our facility who is positive for COVID-19, and another positive patient is quarantined at home in Buncombe County. We have well established protocols in place to care for patients with infectious diseases, and we are following CDC guidelines related to COVID-19 cases, including isolating the patients and taking steps to ensure the safety of our patients, employees and visitors.
As part of our overall COVID-19 preparedness, and as we often do during heavy influenza outbreaks, we have already instituted additional visitor restrictions. As of yesterday, will have tightened visitation even further.
Until further notice, we will no longer allow visitors at any Mission Health Hospital. These new restrictions apply to all patients except our pediatric and labor and delivery patients, who will be allowed to have one adult visitor with them.
The health and safety of our patients and team members is our top priority and we are taking this very seriously. We know this may be difficult and wish the situation were different; however, we’re taking every precaution to protect you and your loved ones.
This situation is evolving very rapidly, and we continue to work in partnership with our local and state health department to monitor things closely. We will share any further information with you as it becomes available.
We continue to reinforce infection prevention protocols and work in partnership with the State of North Carolina, along with our local health departments and the CDC, and will provide updates to our hospital and medical staff as necessary.
We know that now, more than ever, our patients and communities need us – and your support in the weeks ahead will be critical as we work to structure our command centers effectively, manage the effectiveness and stress of our teams, staff our facilities to meet the needs of our patients and collaborate with other health systems and local government agencies.
Mission Health Suspension of Non-Essential Surgery
In addition to continuing our preparations to serve our patients, this week we’ve established additional policies to support our Mission Health team, as well as protect our patients.
Part of our response includes balancing our readiness to care for patients with COVID-19 while continuing to make sure the many other patients who depend on our hospitals receive needed and timely care. We have been closely following the recommended guidelines from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to review scheduled procedures based on a number of factors, including the urgency of the procedure, the clinical judgement of our physicians as well as the current circumstances in the facility and the community.
CMS released new guidelines for surgeries and procedures on March 18. These guidelines include several “tiers” of surgeries and procedures, with different guidance for each. As a result of these new guidelines, Mission Health will be canceling all non-essential surgery procedures as defined by CMS starting Monday, March 23.
We will continue to accommodate the surgeries and procedures determined to be appropriate under the CMS guidelines, and conversations with clinical leadership and surgeons will continue to prioritize surgical cases in the future to ensure Mission Health is prepared to safely meet the needs of all our patients, while protecting the health and well-being of our colleagues.
Ongoing Communication and Community Forums
We recognize the importance of communication at this time and are working to actively update the communities we serve as new information becomes available.
As part of that effort, we released a video (available online here) with Dr. Bill Hathaway, Mission Health’s Chief Medical Officer, answering COVID-19 questions and Tom Neal, Highlands-Cashiers Hospital CEO/CNO, hosted a Virtual Community Forum for nearly one hundred participants. Thank you to Highlands Mayor Patrick Taylor for joining the tele-forum to express his gratitude for our Highlands-Cashiers team and the community support. We’re working as quickly as possible to schedule additional virtual forums for our hospital communities. We will keep you posted as the dates and times are confirmed to share with your constituents and continue to provide e-mail updates in real time.
As part of the country’s largest healthcare system, we have dealt capably with natural disasters in the past and are leveraging the entire HCA Healthcare experience and network of resources to best serve Western North Carolina; however, this event will be an expansive one that may go on for months. As we continue to focus on communication and coordination, we appreciate your support to help get the word out on new COVID-19 information by sharing these updates with your constituents.
Thank you for your commitment to stopping the spread of coronavirus and continued support of our hospitals and dedicated doctors, nurses, care providers and support staff. As always, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me, to your community hospital president or Lori Kroll, copied here, if we can be of assistance.
North Carolina Division