A little over a month ago, LRGHealthcare announced it was following State of New Hampshire guidelines to cancel elective and non-urgent services and was temporarily closing the majority of outpatient services. As you may recall, this decision was driven by two public health needs and one financial need related to the COVID-19 pandemic. From a public health perspective, there was a necessity to socially-distance as a society and to preserve limited personal protective equipment (PPE). From a financial perspective, the cancellation of elective and non-urgent services decreased LRGHealthcare revenue by over 60 percent and the organization had to reduce expenses to remain viable for the long-term.
We are now excited to announce that we will begin thoughtfully and slowly bringing back time-sensitive services to our community under the governor’s Stay at Home Order 2.0. Time-sensitive care does not have a precise definition, but resides in the space between emergent care and elective care.
LRGHealthcare will immediately reopen a number of specialty clinics and departments including ambulatory surgery, endoscopy, general surgery, orthopedics, otolaryngology (ENT), outpatient surgery, and urology. Patients first to receive care will be those who previously had procedures booked and surgical offices will be in touch to reschedule that care soon. In the coming weeks, we will begin to slowly open other services, as well. The plan is to bring back a mix of primary care, specialty care and hospital departments on a weekly basis through the end of June. More specific details on other departments and programs will be shared as plans take shape.
To make this happen, LRGHealthcare has implemented measures to safely provide care contingent upon several requirements that must be met on an ongoing basis. These include having enough PPE, maintenance of stable COVID-19 hospitalization and community transmission rates, ability to separate COVID-19 patients from non-COVID-19 patients and adequate testing capability. Community members should feel confident their health care team will use PPE and everyone, including patients, will be masked. Limitations on visitors will continue. LRGHealthcare will test staff who previously worked on COVID-19 units prior to returning to non-COVID-19 surgical and procedural areas. Patients undergoing higher risk procedures, such as those requiring general anesthesia, will be tested prior to receiving care. Screening for symptoms will remain in place for all staff, patients and visitors. All of this will provide a safe environment but LRGHealthcare will remain prepared for a surge of COVID-19 patients in the future, should that occur.
The temporary clinics in Franklin and Laconia will remain in place until all programs are reinstated. They will continue to answer patient questions, refill prescriptions, perform telehealth visits and triage patient needs. Contact information appears on the organization website (LRGH.ORG) and hospital based services (emergency rooms and inpatient areas) remain open for all COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 activity.
We have been inspired and humbled by the outpouring of support for our health care heroes over the last few months and are eager to resume providing the excellent, local care you have come to know.
(Kevin W. Donovan is president and CEO of LRGHealthcare.)