PRH discusses COVID-19 vaccination clinic, new simulation devices

Pfizer booster shot available with influenza vaccine; patients must return to pick up physical COVID-19 test results after 24 hours



Pullman Regional Hospital has appointed a new board of commissioners member after a two month vacancy of the seat

TRINITY WILLSEY, Evergreen reporter

The Pullman Regional Hospital board met Wednesday to discuss adjustments in services and testing sites caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the implementation of new technology for medical staff.

COVID-19 vaccinations

At this time, Pfizer booster shots are being offered to those in the community, said PRH Medical Commissioner Mike Murphy. The shot can be given simultaneously with the influenza vaccine at many locations, including Safeway. 

“There is no need to make two visits,” he said. “It is convenient if you are going in to get one [vaccine] to get both.” 

PRH has partnered with public health officials, Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories and WSU Cougar Health Services to promote COVID-19 vaccinations, said Becky Highfill, PRH Center for Innovation and Learning director. 

However, the county is now leading the effort to promote vaccinations, Highfill said. 

Jeannie Eylar, PRH chief clinical and patient safety officer, said physicians and medical staff created a podcast with their reasoning and the pros of being vaccinated against COVID-19. 

There are many sources available for those seeking information about vaccinations, she said. 

Once the vaccine is approved for the 5-to-11-year-old age group, PRH plans to work with the county to provide age-group targeted vaccination clinics, Eylar said. Approval will hopefully occur in November.  

Dr. Edwin Tingstad, PRH chief medical officer, said there is also a group that meets every Monday morning to find new ways to promote vaccination efforts in both Whitman and Latah counties. 

“The way we will move through this pandemic is through vaccinations, not through testing and not through other means,” said Scott Adams, PRH chief executive officer.

PRH is also concentrating efforts in Latah County because the population has a significant impact on Whitman County, Adams said. 

On a list of vaccinated states in the nation, Idaho was ranked 50th, near the bottom, he said. 

“[Idaho] is our neighbor, and unfortunately the virus does not really care about the border drawn on the map,” Adams said. 

PRH staff and vaccine mandate 

PRH lost a small number of staff members because of the COVID-19 vaccine mandate, said Steve Febus, PRH chief financial officer. 

“Fortunately for Pullman, we did not lose very many compared to peer [hospitals] across the state,” Febus said. “We have always tried to staff to be able to handle our community needs, and this has always put us in a very good position.” 

The hospital also had a good financial year, with a $4.3 million profit where they usually break even during the fall, he said. An estimated $6 million is projected by the end of the year. 

COVID-19 testing center updates 

There has been a new surge in COVID-19 cases this fall as employers and students returned to in-person activities, Adams said. This has increased the volume of testing.   

The hospital was initially overwhelmed with the high volume, but last week a new physician-ordered testing center opened, he said. 

Within the next six to eight weeks, the goal is to upload a software system to report testing results, making the process more convenient for physicians and patients, Adams said. Until then, testing results will take roughly 24 hours, and patients must return to the hospital to pick up physical copies of their results.

PRH received funding from the federal government for addressing COVID-19 issues and will use $60,000 to make the COVID-19 reporting process more streamlined for providers and patients, Adams said. 

The testing clinic will help with such efforts and relieve some of the workload, Eylar said. 

“We have eliminated a lot of busy work for the front desk and staff,” she said. “They have not even hit 200 [people] at the testing center yet.”

Center of Learning Education 

The PRH Center for Innovation and Learning is adjusting its focus to put more emphasis on providing a quality experience for patients and staff, as well as patient safety, Highfill said.

The center was established in 2013 with the goals of exploring alternatives of care delivery, prevention of illnesses and implementing school-based health programs, Highfill said. There was also a designated focus on providing computerized simulations to train staff and physicians, telemedicine services and education for medical staff and the community. 

At this time, there is a need for updated technology and a new simulation system, she said. Grant funding is needed to purchase new mannequins that can be used by the residency programs, as well as new roles made for clinicians to learn and practice. 

PRH has also partnered with the WSU Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art to implement arts and healing in the hospital to benefit both patients and staff, Highfill said. 

“[The arts] can be used for healing and stress reduction and resiliency,” she said. 

The project to incorporate arts began last spring, and the hospital is now reaching out to local artists to feature their art in the hospital, Highfill said. Part of the plan is also to implement performing arts to boost morale. 

“Hopefully, someday soon our community can come back in the hospital and enjoy lunch at Red Sage Café and maybe some music or performing arts,” Highfill said. “We are getting everything in place for when that time comes.” 

Going forward, PRH plans to improve methods of informing staff and community members with regards to the pandemic, as well as provide more mental health services, Highfill said. 

Hospital staff and youth in the community need more behavioral health offices to improve mental health, Highfill said. 

With a Health Resources and Services Administration grant, the hospital has already implemented a health coaching and motivational interviewing program, Highfill said. There are two certified health coaches that help staff and physicians. 

There are also currently a number of online courses and education opportunities offered through the hospital. A few classes are offered each month, with some featuring providers, Highfill said. 

However, these are decreasing in popularity as Zoom is no longer a desired learning format, she said. 

“It is getting harder to engage people in Zoom activities and classes virtually,” Highfill said, “but we will continue to offer a few classes each month.”

The hospital was forced to use telemedicine services, another virtual format of healthcare, over the pandemic. They will likely continue to be used in the future, even post-pandemic because the services were successful, Highfill said.