Talking with Northern Inyo Hospital Doctors on Corona Virus Topics – (April 27, 2020)
There is a group of us local news media types that have a weekly phone conference with Dr. Stacey Brown and Dr. Will Timbers of Northern Inyo Hospital. The discussions can be wide-ranging and are always informative. Both Brown and Timbers bring a calm analysis of the current situation here in Inyo County, and one of their best characteristics is that they are straightforward and knowledgeable. Another thing these doctors bring to the table is that they will admit when they do not know something—there a lot variables and unknowns about the coronavirus—so it’s nice to hear professionals that you feel you can trust tell you, “I don’t know the answer to that, but I’ll look into it and get back to you.” And they do!
These two doctors (and we cannot neglect to mention all the employees at NIHD) are exactly why we have done so well with the coronavirus numbers being kept so low here in Inyo County. They stay up on the current literature on the virus. Add in their personal experience and training, and generally make good decisions on behalf of their patients and for the rest of us here in the county.
One message coming loud and clear from the Northern Inyo Hospital is that the facility is ready to get back to work serving all of its patients and those needing care, and not just those that may or may not have the coronavirus. Strict health and safety protocols have been put in place and part of our discussion this week had to do with the healthcare district resuming many of the medical services previously offered before COVID-19 arrived in the Eastern Sierra.
The list of services being provided at the hospital during the phone conference included: colonoscopies, endoscopies, echocardiograms, and lab tests. And that’s not the complete list.
We also talked about how successful telehealth (a.k.a., telemedicine) is proving to be for outpatients, and that they even have a revenue stream that allows those without the technology at home to access telemedicine online to call in to the hospital to speak to their provider. Telehealth has long been thought an answer to providing healthcare advice in rural areas without the medical resources of urban areas, and that appears to be happening quickly because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“It is a game changer,” say both doctors. Timbers added that his department has been using telehealth to screen patients before they arrive in order to limit exposure to others from the coronavirus.”
That is a good thing by the way. If you want more information on telehealth/telemedicine, visit the Northern Inyo Healthcare District’s website…or, here is a thought, CALL THEM! If you are a diabetic, you could probably take your quarterly exam using Zoom with your provider.
We also discussed an issue that has been being covered in the national discussion on COVID-19, the problem with blood clotting in patients with the virus. The hospital does test for clotting using something called the D-dimer test, although why clotting is a factor is yet unknown, as is much about the coronavirus
A discussion ensued on antibody testing, which continues to be a problem nationwide. No one has any idea how many people may have already had the virus or how many of those might have developed an immunity. There is some evidence that the immunity might change as it does with the annual flu. There still has not been a reliable home test developed and approved by the FDA for either the coronavirus or antibodies. NIH does have an antibody test available, although not in large quantities. They feel it is as reliable as anything else now on the market.
The tricky question of what the doctors think about the protests springing up against the health orders have been springing up around the country. They were diplomatic.
Dr. Brown noted that “It is your God-given American right to protest. I don’t think it is a problem to protest if individuals are six feet apart and wearing a mask”. He does, however, have a problem which those protesters that are not maintaining social distancing (six feet apart) and not wearing masks.
Dr. Brown also provided a message to those who believe that the coronavirus is a hoax or a sham. “Talk to a family member who lost a patient to COVID; talk to somebody who’s had an acute illness and recovered, and they will tell you, it is no joke.”
Dr. Timbers said the “fix” is just education, noting that there’s always going to be naysayers; there’s always going to be conspiracy theorists, …and that those of us in healthcare, within the scientific community, just have to hold the line, telling people what the evidence is and educating (the public.)”
A positive note sounded by Dr. Brown was that the hospital has proven the concept of extended use of Personal Protection Equipment, meaning that you can wear a mask during your shift instead of changing between each patient. They have a way to sterilize the masks for reuse.