SHS Takes Delivery of COVID-19 Rapid Testing Equipment

Southwest Health System (SHS) has been at the forefront of providing expertise and care to the Southwest Colorado’s Montezuma and Dolores Counties during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Immediately SHS identified how critical rapid testing would be in fighting the spread of the disease. Prior to the current pandemic negotiations for procurement of the BD Max had begun in late 2019, as the machine is capable of detecting numerous communicable diseases including chlamydia, gonorrhea, trichomonas, and various gastrointestinal pathogens, as well as the new strain of SARS-CoV-2. Instead of having to send tests off for processing, SHS will now be able to process significant volumes of samples in-house with results being available within 2-4 hours.

“The Beckton Dickinson MAX Lab Analyzer (BD Max) is an instrument that can relatively quickly amplify and detect target genetic material (RNA in COVID’s case). Using nose or throat swabs, a lab tech can process a sample to run within about 5 minutes. Samples can be batched if necessary. Run time on-instrument is 2-3 hours, and it can hold up to 24 samples. The process used to amplify DNA/RNA with the BD Max is extremely sensitive and specific for the target organism (SARS-CoV-2) making it much more accurate and with less of a sample than other tests and methodologies.” – Alan Laird, SHS Lab Director

SHS received the BD Max today, May 14th, with an initial order of 240 test kits and more on order. The sophisticated equipment requires calibration by the manufacturer once installed and it is anticipated to take several days before it is ready for patient testing. As soon as the equipment is validated and ready to process patient tests, a second press release will be issued.

“The outpouring of support for Southwest Heath System from the community has been amazing. With the leadership of Dr. Akin, the Southwest Memorial Hospital Foundation has received more than $65,000 in commitments to the BD Max Lab analyzer and on April 7th, the Montezuma Board of County Commissioners approved another $36,000 toward the purchase covering the full expense of the purchase and setup of the BD Max Analyzer. I cannot express enough how much this support means to SHS and our staff. It is a great feeling to know the community recognizes our efforts and truly appreciates what the staff are sacrificing to help the community.” – SHS CEO Tony Sudduth

CEO Update April 10, 2020

CEO UPDATE:
I was hopeful that this week would be the first that I would be able to report that we had no additional positive results from the COVID-19 virus. Unfortunately, just this morning the Montezuma County Public Health Department sent out a notification that 2 additional positive tests had been received and unfortunately one had resulted in an additional fatality. That brings the total to 10 positives and 2 fatalities. While we are certainly faring much better then other parts of the country, this is still a good indication that the battle is not over.
I was asked earlier this week what my biggest concern was at this point and I very quickly responded that it was that people would declare victory before the battle was over. Obviously, our experience in Montezuma County is much different then what is being experienced in New York, or New Orleans or other larger areas. But as I said last week, we are in a very different environment, we are typically more social distanced then what is possible in an urban area. That coupled with adherence to the stay at home order is no doubt having a very positive effect on our outcomes. So back to my fear.
With our expanded time at home, Pam and I play cards with Alex and Vicky fairly often. Last night we were playing UNO Flip and I was just noticing how many times one of us would have UNO and not end up winning. Your down to one card, sure you are going to win but something happens and your end up with a hand full of cards and lose. Well that could very easily happen with this situation. We go a week, we see no new cases and we think all is well, we start ignoring social distancing, we are out more and we end up with a hospital full of Covid-19 patients.
I can very directly tell you I understand the desire to get out more. Staying at home is not how Pam and I live our life. It’s difficult, its stressful and we are very much looking forward to this being over. We rescheduled our vacation to July but I am not totally confident that is late enough. But we will stay the course and I urge everyone to do continue to do so also. So yes, I am looking forward to the week when we report no new positive tests and certainly no new deaths, but remember even then the battle is not over and we must be very cautious about declaring victory. As prepared as we are to do so, I truly do not want us to get to the point we utilize our overflow areas.

STAFF:
During these challenging times in healthcare, we are all essential. We are essential to our communities, we are essential to our hospital, we are essential to each other, our families and to ourselves.

First, we are human, full of human compassion and compelled to help others, that is why most of you are in healthcare. We don’t just tell someone that we care, we show them, and in our jobs, we do that often. During stressful times that we’re experiencing, we’re called upon professionally to be essential, show compassion, and more, as never before. The “more” and tiring days may challenge us.

As I remind myself, I would like to remind each or you, whether you are in a support, caregiver or leadership role, to take a step back. Taking care of yourself is important if you are going to take care of others. I have been taking one day a week to work from home. While I realize that not everyone can do this, this is what I am doing to try to relieve some of the pressure that this situation brings about. I still am very busy, this week on Wednesday I spent 7 hours on video conference calls, but I was home and this also gives a little comfort to the family that I am there. What helps you may be different but find that one thing that takes away a little bit of the stress. (Not an endorsement of ignoring social distancing. 😊)

Each of us may be impacted differently and don’t forget there are resources available should you need them. Don’t hesitate to contact HR should you need assistance, because your well-being is essential!

COMMUNITY:

The outpouring of support for Southwest Heath System from the community has been amazing. With the leadership from Dr. Akin, the Foundation has received more than $65,000 in commitments to the BD Max Lab analyzer and on Tuesday the Montezuma County Commissioners approved another $36,000 toward the purchase. In addition, we have a few groups providing meals to staff and others asking what can they do to help staff through this time. We also see the continued receipt of masks and other PPE products. We plan to continue the fund-raising efforts as we know the needs related to COVID-19 are going to be with us a while and the funds can certainly be utilized to address these needs.

I can not express enough how much this support means to SHS and our staff. It is a great feeling to know the community recognizes our efforts and truly appreciates what the staff are sacrificing to help the community. Thank you very much for this support. Lindsay and Bridgett are working on some fun ways to use mask selfies from staff for some communications and education, so I thought I’d share some of the fun in my Friday report.

We’ve been applying for any COVID grants that we are eligible for in the recent weeks and we were just notified we’ve been granted $25,000 by Next50 for our work to continue providing care to our over fifty population during this time. We’re very thankful for their generosity in helping us continue our work during this time. The quick and efficient work by our clinic team to implement tele-medicine made us an attractive recipient for this grant. Thanks to the providers and clinic staff for making that happen so quickly for our community. We’re hoping to receive additional grants in the coming weeks. Your flexibility and resilience during this crisis put us in the best position possible to continue to meet the needs of our patients and community during this time. I’m very proud of all your work during this time.

FINANCIALS:

I have been asked on a few occasions this week if SHS was going to be OK during this crisis. I was even asked if I thought SHS would end up bankrupt as a result. To the first I can very confidently say yes, to the second I can equally as confidently say no. There is not doubt the next few months are going to be difficult, we are going to see a significant loss in March when the financials are released as we did see a downturn in revenue the last part of the month and expenses grew as we prepared for our increased supply needs.

For April we are seeing a decrease in revenue of about 45% over prior year April. So, April will be a bad month as we have purposely not significantly reduced costs as we are working hard to protect the income of our staff. Had this been 2 years ago the outcome would have been much different, however we ended March with about 43 days cash on hand. I would not be surprised if we burn through about 12 to 15 days of that in April. However, we have started to receive funds allocated from the Care Act recently approved by Congress. This morning we received $933,000 as a grant from this act for the hospital. We anticipate to receive a smaller amount for the Clinic next week. In addition, we applied for a forgivable loan through the SBA that will cover out payroll for about 8 weeks and expect to receive those funds in the next 2 weeks. We have also received funds as a Medicare advance on future payments to help with cash flow. This amount however is subject to repayment so it is truly a loan and will have to be repaid in about a year.

In addition, as the situation changes, we will look to service areas that we can bring back on-line. This will be done as we determine it can be done and not effect the safety of our patients and staff. As I mentioned last week, when we take possession of the BD Max lab equipment and have the ability to complete rapid testing, we will be in a much better position to start providing additional services. In the meantime, while I our budget will take a major hit, I believe we will be ok.

In the meantime, thanks to everyone for what you are doing to get us through this crisis,

Breathe In, Breathe Out, Move on,

Tony

Anthony Sudduth, CPA, FACHE, FHFMA