Friday, January 28, 2022
Jan. 28, 2022

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Legacy Health Focuses on Being the Safest Place to Receive and Deliver Care


Before the COVID-19 pandemic, our primary strategic initiative was creating a culture of safety within the Legacy campuses: To make Legacy and Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center the safest place to receive and deliver care. We were on that multi-year journey to achieve that goal when the pandemic  hit Southwest Washington.

Immediately we got to work on the issue at hand: COVID-19. We set up emergency operations centers, focused on infectious disease treatment and prevention, reviewed and adjusted hospital procedures and determined how to set up rapid and extensive COVID testing. We conducted numerous huddles with our staff to keep everyone informed of new information and policy changes. We looked at issues to be raised and solved. We examined infrastructure and assessed risks. Creating this framework helped us navigate the pandemic in the early days of March, April and May 2020.

As that first wave of COVID subsided in June, we thought about what we had learned during this time. We discussed what new procedures, protocols or tasks we wanted to continue when the pandemic goes away. We kept in place some of the infrastructure we’d built in our operations centers—to work toward our goal of being the safest place to receive and deliver care.

Now all these months later, it’s still challenging. We’re seeing higher volumes of COVID-positive patients, even higher than we did in the spring. We’re dealing with the perfect storm of high levels of COVID, flu season starting, and exhaustion of our front-line staff. Our capacity is constrained. None of this has been easy for our healthcare workers. In the meantime, we continue to advise folks to persist with hand washing, masks, social distancing and limiting gatherings. If people do their part, we will do our best to ensure we have enough healthcare capacity while limiting the spread of COVID.

Even though 2020 was challenging and difficult, as we’ve navigated through the pandemic, we have realized some positives. After navigating that first wave of COVID, we realized we have become very good at identifying, raising and solving problems very quickly. Challenges that previously took us weeks to identify and solve now are taking us hours and days. This ability to rapidly identify and solve issues is one of the biggest outcomes the pandemic will have on Legacy. We’re now in a much better place.

Another positive development from the pandemic is that we’ve seen fewer people using the emergency room for non-emergency care. Some health issues are appropriate for ER visits, but others are better addressed via telehealth, urgent care or clinic visits. Better utilization of healthcare resources for the right problems is another good outcome of this pandemic. It increases access to care for everyone.

Yet another positive development from COVID is increased coordination and collaboration in Clark County’s healthcare and public health community. We’ve had thoughtful, constructive conversations and collaborations between Legacy Health, PeaceHealth, The Vancouver Clinic and Clark County Public Health. Together, we’re doing everything we can to support our community. In terms of relationships, we’ve built infrastructure to work collaboratively on public health issues.

Very early in the pandemic, as far back as March, we’ve been meeting almost weekly as a group to check in with each other to discuss these kinds of issues: What are you seeing on the ground? What are your visitor policies? How are you testing? What are the providers seeing in the public? This gives us a good perspective. It’s been invaluable to have that conversation.

Going forward, I see this group of community healthcare leaders continuing to meet to discuss ongoing and potential issues. This has been a great example on how we can work together on common challenges so we can all better serve our growing community. We will continue once COVID is finally behind us. This collaboration will serve all of us in Clark County—today and tomorrow.

In 2020, Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center learned invaluable lessons dealing with the pandemic. As difficult as 2020 was, I believe that 2021 will be brighter and the learnings from this past year will accelerate our journey towards our goal of being the safest place to receive and deliver care for our community.