COVID-19 cases have not impacted operations at Adventist Health Tehachapi Valley, but the “COVID effect” has deterred patients from using valuable and timely services.
The hospital is fully operational and is offering free COVID testing.
“We are ready to care for you,” Christina Scrivner, director of philanthropy for the Adventist Health Tehachapi Valley Foundation, told the Kiwanis Club of Tehachapi at its July 1 meeting at the Gold Mountain Sports Tavern.
The hospital was prepared early on to meet the challenge of the pandemic, she said.
“The hospital got busy right away, establishing a risk management team when the issue was still on the other side of the world,” Scrivner said.
While the hospital continued to function normally and was prepared for a possible burden of COVID cases, the absence of patients who postponed procedures and who were wary of exposure at a hospital has led to a different impact, dubbed “the COVID effect.”
“There has been a profound drop in volumes,” Scrivner said. “The emergency room used to see 50 to 55 patients a day. It has dipped into the 20s over a sustained period. That is the net effect from the COVID effect.
“Folks are staying away, delaying care,” she said. “It’s a dangerous situation.”
During the slowdown, she said, several patients have come into the hospital almost too late. One patient came in with an advanced heart problem and another with an appendix about to burst.
The drop in patients has significantly impacted employment at the hospital.
“There are temporary and permanent layoffs at the hospital,” Scrivner said. “Low patient volume for months and months is not sustainable. Folks are flexing (flex timing hours) and the entire team has absorbed the impact.”
The hospital resumed non-emergent surgery in May, Scrivner said.
All visitors to the hospital are screened when they come in, and no visitors are allowed in the ER.
Scrivner said that according to the Kern County Public Health Services Department, there have been 37 COVID cases reported in the 93561 ZIP code over the past 3 ½ months as of July 3. She said there have not been more than 10 active cases at a time.
The hospital has been providing COVID testing since the beginning. In partnership with the Kern County Public Health Services Department, the hospital set up a drive-through clinic that can perform 35 tests a day, and no criteria are required (you do not have to show any symptoms) to make an appointment. The tests, which take 12 minutes to administer, are free and the results are available in three to five days. Appointments may be made Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to noon. To schedule an appointment, call 661-771-8775.
“Since the testing began (at the hospital), more than 500 people have been tested,” she said.
Scrivner said the foundation is providing $2 million for the new $4 million imaging pavilion that will connect seamlessly to the hospital and will house state-of-the-art MRI and CT scan technology. The hospital has a CT scan in a covered trailer next to the building. The new CT will feature an increase from 16-slice to 64-slice imaging. The MRI will be the first in the valley.
The imaging technology “will provide a comprehensive approach, not piecemeal,” she said. “It will elevate the care for the people of the area.”
Tina Cunningham is interim president of the Kiwanis Club of Tehachapi.