Latest Information from SEARHC on COVID-19

We are working with our partners on the shared priority of keeping our people and communities safe. SEARHC offers some timely medical information for our shareholders. Thank you, SEARHC!

Dear Sealaska Shareholders:

As the healthcare provider of choice in our communities, SEARHC has gone to great lengths in response to the arrival of COVID-19 in Southeast Alaska. Our mission of providing the highest quality healthcare to our patients and communities continues to be our focus. This outbreak is unlike any other threat our organization has experienced, and the Consortium has shifted operations to ensure that high-quality, essential care remains available throughout the region. The safety of our patients and staff remains our top priority through the duration of the coronavirus crisis. This message is to inform our patients of pertinent, temporary changes in protocol and services across the Consortium.

SEARHC leadership is continually assessing the COVID-19 situation and remains in constant contact with healthcare organizations, including the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (ADHSS), for the most current information on how to identify the virus and treat patients. Our providers have been screening based on CDC recommended guidelines since the beginning of February, with criteria recently relaxed due to the known community-spread of COVID-19 within our region.

Essential service lines remain open, including hospital services, long-term care, primary care, behavioral health, and necessary support services. Routine optometry, dental, and patient travel have been suspended, except in emergency situations. Elective surgeries have been suspended, and the Swedish Health Network specialty clinics were postponed for 90 days. Suspension of non-emergent services is allowing SEARHC the opportunity to redeploy staff to other roles within the organization as the pandemic creates an increased need for staffing in other service lines.

Virtual visits have been introduced for behavioral health and primary care patients to help reduce direct contact, leading to a safer, more streamlined appointments. Behavioral Health is now conducting most visits via phone or video, with limited in-person visits. Primary Care has begun rolling-out virtual appointments, with in-person visits available only under certain circumstances.  

The communities of Juneau, Sitka, Wrangell, Haines, and Klawock are also hosting alternative testing sites for COVID-19, allowing for off-site testing to limit the need for facility decontamination and help conserve protective equipment use. For information on alternative testing in your area, call 907.463.4040 (Juneau), 907.966.8799 (Sitka), 907.874.4700 (Wrangell), 907.755.4800 (Klawock), or 907.766.6300 (Haines).

SEARHC pharmacies are now offering curbside pick-up for prescriptions, along with delivery by vehicle or mail, depending on the community. If located in Sitka or Wrangell, staff are offering delivery of prescriptions to your door. Patients in Sitka and Juneau have the option to receive prescriptions through the mail. If located in Wrangell, Juneau, Haines, or Klawock, a curbside option is available in lieu of any patients entering our pharmacies during the pandemic.

For the safety of patients and staff, visiting hours have been limited or temporarily eliminated, depending on the facility, with visitors and staff required to complete health screenings prior to admittance. SEARHC has limited the number of family members and/or chaperones accompanying a patient to a SEARHC facility to one person per patient. This restriction applies to patients in a treatment room, emergency room, exam room, and hospital.

COVID-19 symptoms are similar to those of the flu – fever, aching, cough, and shortness of breath. With no viable vaccines or medications identified, the best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. 

In addition, the CDC recommends everyday preventive actions, including:

  • Washing your hands thoroughly and often
  • Covering your coughs and sneezes with a tissue
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects
  • Get a flu shot
  • Avoid touching your face  

To consolidate information and increase access to the latest information, SEARHC launched covid19.searhc.org. Patients are encouraged to share and visit covid19.searhc.org daily for updates relevant news articles, frequently asked questions, and contact information for the SEARHC care facility nearest you. Patients can also contact the SEARHC COVID-19 Hotline at 907.966.8799 during normal business hours to speak to a representative about coronavirus-related questions.

Changes in service are not taken lightly by SEARHC. Our organization has made deliberate, informed decisions with the safety of our region in mind and flexibility as confirmed cases rise throughout the State. 

We urge residents to adhere to state mandates and practice social distancing to help flatten the curve.

Sincerely,

Dr. Elliot Bruhl
SEARHC Vice President and Chief Medical Officer

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