Preparation and business as usual at Summit Pacific

Elma hospital system is treating coronavirus as just another flu, but having staff prepared in case.

Even with coronavirus, it’s “business as usual” at Summit Pacific Medical Center in Elma.

“Right now, there’s business as usual. It’s another respiratory virus. We deal with respiratory viruses every year during this time of the year,” Dr. Ken Dietrich, Chief Medical Officer at Summit, said Wednesday (March 4).

Summit is, however, taking precautions in case there is a surge in needed care.

“This (coronavirus) is no different from influenza. Our practices, in terms of how we care for those individual patients are identical,” he said. “What we’re doing now that’s different because of the potential for the virus becoming active in the community is that we’re changing the location of how we care for them and we’re assigning a care team — providers, nurses, etc. — to only care for those kinds of patients. Fundamentally, there’s no other difference.”

But coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, has gripped the nation and many people have concerns.

“What I’m hearing and what I’m sensing is some fear, because there’s not enough information,” Summit CEO Josh Martin said. “We’re requesting that people be mindful of the fear. It’s creating a fear based response that limits our ability as health professionals to treat and care for our patients.”

To help ease that fear — and possibly persuade healthy people from going to the hospital or panic buying supplies needed by care providers — Summit officials sat down with Grays Harbor News Group to help get needed, accurate information out into the public.

Grays Harbor Community Hospital officials were preparing a news release for Wednesday afternoon.

Summit Pacific officials said Harborites should go about business as usual. If one person in a family starts to cough, they likely should stay home, but others should go to work or school as normal if they’re are not showing flu-like symptoms: fever, cough, runny nose.

If a person is having trouble breathing or is running a fever, then they should speak with a medical provider.

“If someone in your house has respiratory infection or is sick, ideally that person should wear a mask. And the people who come into contact with that person should make sure that they have good hand hygiene,” Dietrich said.

Summit needs to be prepared in case anything did happen so they are preparing.

Patients who show respiratory illness are cared for in a separate area by a team of providers whose only job is caring for those patients.

“One of the reasons we’re going through this new methodology is to try to limit contact for people. So if you have the infection, there’s no reason for you to be in contact with five other people, who are also not immunized, and potentially spread it,” Dietrich said.

And Summit intends to continued to be prepared until the virus eases.

“It will remain in place until we deem or hear differently that the virus has subsided,” Martin said.

“All winter long influenza has been prevalent in our community, and people have been carrying on business as usual. This virus appears to have no higher a risk of death than influenza,” Dietrich said.

“Most respiratory viruses, as the weather gets warmer and dryer, the virus goes away. It’s likely this virus will be like that because coronavirus is like that. (COVID-19) is just a new variant. Coronavirus typically goes away in the spring and summer.”

In the meantime, try to practice good hand hygiene.

More information on coronavirus is available from the following sources:

CDC: (includes guidance for businesses, schools, individuals and families).

Washington State Department of Health:

Washington State Department of Health call center for general coronavirus questions: 1-800-525-0127, press #.

Grays Harbor County Public Health: