May 2, 2020
Updates at Rio Grande Hospital from Arlene Harms, CEO:

It was just a little over 100 years ago in 1918 that our country and the world dealt with a novel virus pandemic called Spanish Influenza. Here’s an excerpt from a Colorado newspaper, October 1918: “The Governor of Colorado urges residents not to gather in crowds. Schools closed, movie theaters shuttered, and public transit limiting ridership. Denver’s Mayor bans meetings, religious services, and parties”. Doesn’t this sound familiar? Once again, we are experiencing a novel virus; this time called COVID-19; the Colorado governor is basically reacting with the same measures of sheltering at home, halting indoor gatherings and closing schools, perhaps with the same resistance to the government-imposed restrictions that occurred in 1918. History did show that “carrying on as usual”- avoiding distancing between people and not isolating- resulted in the virus spreading easier throughout the state. In early October of 1918, 40,000 people gathered in Cheesman Park to gaze at a never-before-seen warplane. A week later, Denver had 1,200 cases of Spanish flu and 78 deaths with the illness and deaths increasing over the next several months. Denver did eventually ban indoor gatherings, funerals, and all public services and additionally did not allow people to be on the street unless it was an emergency. There would be several times that restrictions would be relaxed and then re-imposed because as people began to be out with more gatherings, there would be a dramatic increase in infections and death until finally, the influenza ran its course in the next year. We don’t want to repeat that part of history.

Today we are fortunate to have significant medical advancements that have developed over the last 100 years, and this can bring hope that an end is in sight, but until a vaccine is available, we have to concentrate on slowing down the virus spread. With that in mind, I would encourage everyone to continue the Governor’s request that we remain home as much as possible. We do not want to see a surge of COVID infections as the “Stay at Home” order, and restrictions on businesses and activities are relaxed. We don’t want to see history repeat itself, so we must proceed slowly and with caution.

I fully understand that the San Luis Valley is experiencing great hardships economically, and I can’t imagine the desperation that some are feeling in being required to close their businesses for over a month. Rio Grande Hospital is noting a dramatic reduction in revenues and significant increases in expenses. I’m also aware that on social media, there are opinions that this outbreak is not as serious as it is being depicted, that the media is propagating false information, and that it’s no different than flu. However, at this point, I’m not willing to bet anyone’s life on this notion; so, at Rio Grande Hospital we are continuing to believe that COVID-19 is an exponential contagion and that we need to do our part in slowing down the transmission by social distancing, by limiting group meetings to less than 10 and by believing that the SAFER AT HOME initiative is the right thing to do for all of us. We will continue to screen everyone, including employees that are entering the hospital or clinics for symptoms consistent with a respiratory infection and presence of a fever. Everyone coming into our facilities will wear masks at all times, and we will offer telehealth clinics as an option to anyone feeling uncomfortable about leaving their home but needing to talk to a provider.

On May 5th, we will begin to open up our clinics fully, to slowly allow elective surgeries to be performed, starting May 14th; and to deliberately protect the most vulnerable with our telehealth capabilities and the Nurse hotline. We are committed to finding testing that can be done locally (although there is no quick solution at this time), to protect our community and our employees and to help our community stay safe and well.

Again, I am so thankful for the community’s outpouring of support with donations, food, flowers, chalk drawings of encouragement, making masks and masks fasteners, and sending us personal protection equipment. Thank you all so much.

A friend recently recommended these statements to live by during these troubled times: “I am determined to emerge from this crisis a bit tougher when it comes to what I expect from myself, a bit more compassionate when I see the struggles faced by others, a bit more generous in doing what I can to help, a bit more grateful for what I have, and a lot less resentful for what I might have lost.”

Please stay safe, and remember we are here for you all.
Arlene

 

April 11, 2020
Updates at Rio Grande Hospital from Arlene Harms, CEO:

On Monday, April 13th, Rio Grande Hospital will be opening the Monte Vista Clinic, South Fork Clinic, and Creede Clinic on a part-time schedule. The Rio Grande Hospital Clinic will continue to be open for appointments as well. With Governor Polis requesting a continuance of the “Stay at Home Order” through April 30th, we are still respectfully asking you to remain at home to avoid exposure to COVID-19. However, if you are needing to see a provider, you can make an appointment at any of Rio Grande Hospital’s four clinics. If you need to see a provider and it could wait for two weeks without affecting your health, such as a wellness visit, please make an appointment for after April 30th and remain home for now. The clinics will be functioning on a limited schedule, which will be posted shortly. We also would ask that if you are experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID such as fever, cough, sore throat and/or shortness of breath, please consider using our telehealth services rather than coming to the clinics. You are able to make an appointment for a telehealth visit by calling the Del Norte clinic at 719-657-2418. We want to serve our community, but we also want you to be safe. You will be asked about symptoms associated with a respiratory infection upon arrival to any of our clinics or the hospital as well as having your temperature checked. You will also be asked to wear a mask before entering the reception area. All of our employees will be wearing a mask as well. If you need lab or x-rays, please call ahead for an appointment as we will need to keep our waiting rooms safe and with very few people waiting. You can call the hospital at 719-657-2510 and ask for the lab or x-ray. We will also have physical therapy open in both Monte Vista and Del Norte. Additionally, the wound care clinic will be open to include hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Surgery will not open back up this month. If you have any questions, please feel free to call us.

In a time where our lives continue to change, you can trust that Rio Grande Hospital and Clinics will not change in our commitment to do what is best for our community. Thanks to all of you for your continual encouragement, your contributions, delicious meals & treats, cloth masks, and, most of all, for your support.


April 2, 2020
Changes at Rio Grande Hospital from Arlene Harms, CEO:

I wanted to update all of you that the Rio Grande Hospital Clinic is open for urgent care visits and also available for telehealth clinic visits. (as well as our Emergency Room for your emergency needs). If you are experiencing fever, sore throat, cough, chest pressure, or may have been exposed to a person diagnosed with COVID-19 and now experiencing symptoms, please call in for a visit with a physician through your cell phone, computer, or by phone. It’s an easy process, so just call the clinic at 719-657-2418 and schedule an appointment.

I also wanted to let you know that our pharmacy in Monte Vista is open using the drive-through, and we are also delivering medicines to Del Norte, South Fork, and Creede Clinics daily. There are no expected medication shortages in pharmacy, so don’t hesitate to call us; our providers are willing to call in your prescriptions as needed. Most importantly, please continue to take your medicine as prescribed.

Our Monte Vista, South Fork, and Creede clinics will continue to be closed through April 10th. I think these two weeks are critically important to slow down the transmission of the virus and its best done by staying home and away from other people. COVID-19 is extremely contagious, and if you can stay home and not be out in public unless absolutely necessary, that is your best protection from the disease. Much of the hospital staff is living this example by working at home or taking time off. I apologize for the inconvenience this has caused for the public and for the staff, but I truly believe this was important to protect staff and the public.

As I’ve said previously, in these darkest of times, brightness will shine greater, and I’ve seen so much good in our hospital, the health care systems, and the community.Thank you so much for those of you willing to sew masks, and make hand sanitizer locally, for those of you who have brought food and goodies to the hospital and clinic, and for the many who have offered inspiration by words of encouragement. I am so proud of our community, so impressed with the work and commitment of the nursing homes and other residential services, who haven’t received much attention or thanks but are working so hard to protect their residents. During these times of crisis, there are so many groups that are meeting every day and some twice a day to make sure that we can protect the San Luis Valley as much as possible. Although we don’t get to see each other every day, that hasn’t slowed down the commitment and passion of the people of this Valley to do what needs to be done and stand strong together even in these hardest of times. 𝒜𝓇𝓁ℯ𝓃ℯ


March 25, 2020
Changes at Rio Grande Hospital from Arlene Harms, CEO:

The Incident Command Team has recommended several changes at Rio Grande Hospital to be effective Thursday, March 26th. These changes were made due to a belief that we are at a critical juncture in the COVID-19 epidemic. As the positive cases are rapidly increasing statewide, it will be a matter of several weeks to a month when the trajectory of positive cases will be so high that hospitals most likely will not have sufficient space, staff, or equipment to continue taking care of all those with the virus. As the data from history and the present week reveals, we have a relatively short time in which we can alter the number of rising illnesses due to COVID-19. The most effective way is to reduce exposures by “sheltering in place”. Many counties in Colorado are responding to this need, as you see in Denver County and now Mineral and Hinsdale Counties. All of us are asking our patients to please stay home and avoid areas where you can’t remain six feet away from all persons. Rio Grande Hospital chooses to be a model of what we are requesting of the communities, and so the following have been placed in action through April 10th and starting March 26th:

1. Anyone who can work at home will do so
2. Physical Therapy will be closed
3. Wound Clinic will be closed
4. Cardiac Rehabilitation will be closed
5. Monte Vista Clinic, South Fork Clinic, and Creede Clinic will be closed through April 10th
6. Del Norte Clinic will remain open for urgent care and telemedicine visits for sickness. You can call the front office number for this clinic, 719-657-2418, and they will direct you to the right area of the clinic.
If you need prescriptions refilled, or if you would like a telephone consultation to determine the need for further treatment, please call the clinic number. We will take care of you, but at this time, please stay home and schedule any elective or non-urgent visits for later.
7. We will still deliver pharmacy orders to Del Norte, Creede, and South
Fork clinics.

We are sorry for the inconvenience this causes many Please know that we want to be your hospital and clinic where your needs can be met but right now we are requesting that if you can stay at home (shelter in place) for the next several weeks, we can slow down the cases of the virus in this Valley and it will be worth all the inconvenience and sacrifice. Our hotline will remain open during business hours, and our hospital and emergency room available to you 24/7. We want to be a good example by encouraging you to shelter in place for the next three weeks, and if we can help you do that even while you may be ill, we will all have been successful in protecting our communities.


March 23, 2020
A message from Rio Grande Hospital CEO, Arlene Harms:

Each of our lives has been incredibly impacted this past week as we watched the COVID-19 pandemic unfold in the US. Uncertainty and fear of the future can be paralyzing as we begin to adjust to a new normal and one that has never been experienced before this time. I want to assure you that we have an amazing team for you here at Rio Grande Hospital. Although we now have two cases of COVID-19 here in Rio Grande County and I suspect there will be more in the coming weeks, we are taking measures to help control the spread, which I want to talk to you about. One of the best ways to stop the spread is to “stay in place”, this is a term that we are hearing continually on the television and social media, but what it means is that you should stay home and not go out of your home any more than you need to for essential things like groceries or medicine. Restrict travel to a minimum. If you must be around other people, maintain a six-foot distance. If you have to work, go there and then go back home. We know it has worked for other areas in the world to slow down the steep curve of increasing numbers of people becoming sick from COVID-19. The present curve will quickly rise above the Colorado hospitals’ capability to take care of the sick, so it is imperative for each of us to do our part and help to stop the spread in any way we can. Anyone with symptoms suggestive of COVID infection has been asked to isolate during the duration of the illness. Additionally, please know that there is a shortage of tests in the US and only a few places capable of performing the tests. There is now a 7-day wait or more for obtaining the results. I know this has been frustrating for everyone, but the Health Department Lab is working day and night with heavy backlogs, there are two other national commercial labs performing the tests but are also overwhelmed with the numbers.

Rio Grande Hospital has begun to responsively take aim at this new enemy, but we need your help. Most people will have cold or flu symptoms with fever and body aches, but will not require being seen by a provider or going to the Emergency Department (ER). It is so important that at the beginning of symptoms, you isolate in an area away from other people, including those in the household. If the disease does develop into acute shortness of breath, our ER is ready to take care of you. Please call before arriving so we are ready.

We are in the fiercest battle of our lives, but I believe in the people of the San Luis Valley, and we will do whatever is needed to conquer COVID-19. Thanks to the incredible staff at RGH; and to our supportive and courageous communities. Arlene