COVID-19 has changed everyone’s day-to-day life. It’s no different for all of us at South Shore Health. All of our departments have a single focus—to continue to provide world-class care to our community during the historic public health threat posed by coronavirus.
I urge every member of our community to take the precautionary measures laid out in Governor Baker’s state of emergency declaration seriously.
By doing so, you are helping to flatten the curve, which will minimize the burden on the healthcare system. But make no mistake; we are preparing for a large influx of patients and some difficult days ahead.
Our Incident Command Team has been working around-the-clock for weeks, monitoring the threat of COVID-19 and working to ensure South Shore Hospital, South Shore Medical Center, South Shore VNA, Hospice of the South Shore, Health Express, and all of our practices are as prepared as possible.
Twice a day, this team huddles to report on what every department is doing and how we can help each other meet the challenges we face. This team is comprised of representatives from our medical staff, operations, emergency preparedness, infectious disease, communications, human resources, and all departments.
I want to update the community on the steps we’re taking in preparation.
Capacity at South Shore Hospital
South Shore Hospital’s Emergency Department is one of the busiest in the region. We anticipate it will get even busier in the weeks ahead as COVID-19 spreads. To that end, we’ve set up a tent outside the ED to care for patients if the need grows. This tent is not yet operational, but will be soon, should we need it.
We’ve also canceled all elective surgeries as of Wednesday, March 18, which opens up more capacity within the rest of the hospital. Our operations team is working to find space dedicated for the sickest COVID-19 patients, as well as ill patients who do not have the virus. And we’ve restricted visitors, which will help flatten the curve and keep our caregivers safe.
Along with all healthcare organizations in the state, South Shore Health is struggling to test all the patients who need to be screened for COVID-19. As the tests become more widely available this week, we are working to establish “drive-thru” testing at an offsite location. This will be a place where ambulatory patients (those who can come in on their own) can get quick access to COVID-19 testing.
South Shore Hospital, South Shore Medical Center, and Health Express are not yet equipped to do drive-thru testing. Please do not walk in for testing.
We are also working to designate certain Health Express locations as COVID-19 testing spaces. We urge you to keep an eye on our website and social media channels for updates as they become available.
If you think you are sick, please follow these steps, recommended by the Centers for Disease Control.
South Shore Medical Center Patients
South Shore Medical Center, our primary care practice with locations in Norwell, Quincy, and Kingston, is working to meet the needs of all patients. Our phones have been busy, which means increased wait times. We understand how frustrating that is, especially if you are experiencing respiratory symptoms, and are working to resolve it.
We’re adjusting our phone tree to make it easier for patients to cancel well-visits or other non-urgent appointments. We continue to increase staff on the triage phones to reduce wait times. Patients who would like to cancel well-visits are able to do so via South Shore MyChart.
If you feel you need a COVID-19 test, please continue to call us first for triage.
I am so grateful to our caregivers, who continue to provide top-notch patient care during this uncertain time. Our top priority is the safety of our patients and staff. Our operations team is working to ensure our caregivers have the proper safety equipment and are well-trained on how to use it. Our colleagues have a dedicated online portal with updated information as we learn more about the virus, how to safely care for patients with COVID-19, and other critical updates. And there’s no replacement for in-person communication, which we are providing to leaders to share when they huddle with their teams.
Additionally, any colleague with symptoms of COVID-19 should stay home and report to our employee health line. This virus is spreading, and our colleagues are not immune. We are creating contingency staffing plans for when our caregivers are ill.
How to Stay Informed
Please get your updates from reputable healthcare organizations and local news media. Online, I recommend the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control, and Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
South Shore Health is sharing updates on our dedicated COVID-19 page. We also update a banner on our website with major changes. You can also follow us on social media for updates and information—you can find our profiles at the bottom of our website.
South Shore Health is doing everything we can to be prepared for what we anticipate will be some difficult weeks ahead. We’re grateful to our community for their support, understanding, and doing everything they can to stop the spread of this very serious illness.
Rose Di Pietro is Interim President & CEO of South Shore Health.
Get the latest on COVID-19.