Part 4, PMH Interview: Is Pocahontas Memorial Hospital Prepared for COVID-19?

We are all grateful that, so far, the virus causing Corona virus Disease has not been found in Pocahontas County. West Virginia so far has fared better then most states, and we all are optimistic that Governor Justice may soon begin to slowly open the state. Even so, as Dr. John Ioannidis Professor of Epidemiology at Stanford University has recently pointed out -this virus can still have some late surprises.

So, in this final portion of our interview with Mary Beth Barr, the CEO of Pocahontas Memorial Hospital, we learn the preparations PMH has made, just in case we should see one of those late surprises here.

Mary Beth, what if, God forbid, PMH were to suddenly receive a number of COVID-19 patients -is the hospital prepared to handle that?

“We are prepared” Barr answered. “We have designated certain areas of the hospital as the sick areas. We have recognized that we needed negative air pressure rooms -we only had one. We have two or three units that can make our rooms negative air pressure. We do have a few ventilators here that if we had to make a mini-ICU – Intensive Care Unit. We have nurses who are trained in ICU and are ALS -Advanced Life Support -certified that could handle those patients if we were unable to transfer the very sick ones out. So, we are prepared.”

“We’ve been very fortunate so far that Pocahontas County has not had a positive report” Barr added. “And it looks like things are peaking in West Virginia as predicted, and hopefully things will flatten out by the end of the month and maybe we can get back to business as before.”

Does PMH have adequate numbers of personal protection equipment (PPE), like masks, gloves and gowns?

“Yes, we are keeping a diligent watch on those supplies” Barr replied. “Each employee gets one mask per day. And of course, more if that mask becomes soiled or contaminated. We have had the community, who has just responded in so many ways, supply us with cloth masks that we use to cover up our paper masks and then those are washed daily. Our Emergency Preparedness Coordinator, Jason Scotchie, is an RN and a Paramedic who has done a great job. We’ve received some extra equipment from the state. And right now we have enough supplies that would get us through the next several weeks if nothing changes in our usage.”

Thank you, Mary Beth, -is there anything else you would like to say to our listeners?

“No, I just have to give kudos to both our medical staff and our employees here who have been so dedicated and engaged” Barr said. “They are putting their work in front of their families. I do a daily update here thanking them every day (and) encouraging them to change clothes before they leaver the hospital, or change as soon as they get home to protect their families, because they really are giving up a lot by coming to work every day. They are not complaining. They are waiting and ready, and we hope we really don’t get that influx of very sick patients, but we’re here to serve and take care of our community, and we are so blessed to have this hospital and to have the engaged employees that truly-truly care. And kudos to our Board members who have been very engaged every day, but especially during this crisis. They’ve called, they’ve checked on us. We’ve had a lot of little meetings in between to let them know, and I send them the updates as well. So, everyone is ready and waiting. And, again, I would like to thank the community for their support of our employees during this crisis.”

Hopefully this four-part interview has helped clarify for our listeners the present status of Pocahontas Memorial Hospital, both its financial situation and its preparedness to serve the community.

Story By

Tim Walker

Tim is the WVMR News Reporter. Tim is a native of Maryland who started coming to Pocahontas County in the 1970’s as a caver. He bought land on Droop Mountain off Jacox Road in 1976 and built a small house there in the early 80’s. While still working in Maryland, Tim spent much time at his place which is located on the Friars Hole Cave Preserve. Retiring in 2011 as a Lieutenant with the Anne Arundel County Police Department in Maryland, Tim finally took the plunge and moved from Maryland to his real home on Droop Mountain. He began working as the Pocahontas County Reporter for Allegheny Mountain Radio in January of 2015.

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