San Juan hospital leaders thank staff and visiting medical teams who toiled at height of COVID

SJRMC visitor policy relaxed, crisis care standards policy canceled

The Daily Times staff

FARMINGTON — Decreases in the high numbers of COVID-19 cases seen in San Juan County since cases began to spike in November have led to changes in San Juan Regional Medical Center's visitation policies and the end of crisis standards of care at the 198-bed non-profit hospital.

The hospital implemented the emergency care standards in November 2021 as COVID-19 case numbers climbed and the Intensive Care Unit had to be expanded.

Crisis standards of care are described by the state health department as "peer-reviewed guidelines that help health care providers and health care systems decide how to deliver the best care possible under the extraordinary circumstances of a disaster or public health emergency when there are not enough resources."

The facility's staff was stretched thin by demands caused by the pandemic and was supplemented by revolving shifts of health care workers from the military.

Thanks to a lot of help from outside the county, administrators said in a news release Feb. 24, that challenge was met and the medical center was able to keep serving the community.

"After months of extremely high demand for patient care with the highest numbers of COVID-19 admissions we've seen since the pandemic began, patient volumes have lessened," the hospital's managers said in a news release. 

Thanks given to San Juan County medical teams

The hospital's administrators thanked the many agencies and governmental teams that helped pull the facility through its darkest hours.

"We cannot thank these incredible caregivers and the lawmakers who helped us secure their help enough. They came without hesitation and joined in immediately, providing immense relief and hope for our frontline caregivers who have been working nonstop since the pandemic began," President and CEO Jeff Bourgeois said. "More importantly, I want to thank and recognize the incredible caregivers who have stuck with San Juan Regional Medical Center during this pandemic. Their loyalty to San Juan Regional, and the patients we serve in our community, is the foundation of community service our organization is built upon."

FMN Jeff Bourgeois

Those getting thanks include the New Mexico Department of Health, which arranged for group of caregivers from Jogan Health Solutions to travel to San Juan County, the release said. 

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Disaster Medical System sent three separate Disaster Medical Assistance Teams (DMAT) and a critical care team to the hospital, the release said.

"The United States Department of Defense, at the request of FEMA, sent two Navy Medical Response Teams to the hospital over the holidays to help our caregivers during the surge," the release said. "All the caregiving groups we received were welcomed warmly, integrated into the clinical care model at SJRMC immediately, and worked alongside our caregivers to provide needed care for our community."

For one of the military caregivers deployed away from their families over the holiday months, pitching in during a crisis on American soil was a new experience.

"This is the first time in my career I have been boots on the ground at a U.S. facility helping U.S. citizens," Cmdr. Theodor Zainal of Team Delta said in the release. "I really want to emphasize to the staff, this has been an incredible rewarding experience. We've been in the trenches together. Hands down there is not a better hospital, hospital staff that our team could have had than all of you."

Medical technologist Kathy Loyd was one of the disaster medical assistance team members from Ohio who was deployed to the San Juan Regional Medical Center in November of 2021 to provide relief to the hospital's regular staff amid a surging COVID-19 caseload.

Teams provided much-needed help

"The impact has been in alleviating some of the stress, but the other impact has just been the morale of our team, having that support there," the hospital's Chief Medical Officer Dr. Robert Underwood said. "To have those assets here, and to have them just become part of our overall team, has really been great."

One team leader said the hospital staff made them feel welcome.

"Thank you for all the many ways you and the community have shown kindness and hospitality to us while deployed over the holidays," said Capt. Regina O'Nan of Team Charlie. "We've been so very honored to serve and support alongside SJRMC in protecting Four Corners citizens from this virus. It's said we Navy sailors have friends in every port, and now we have forever-friends in the 'Port' of Farmington."

Hospital Corpsman Second Class Jessika Gomez, left, Hospital Corpsman Second Class Brian Rice, Cmdr. Nikunj Bhatt and Lt. Bob Geis of the Naval Medical Readiness Training Command team out of San Diego converse in the garden at San Juan Regional Medical Center on Dec. 11.

San Juan Regional Medical Center Visitor policies change

"With the COVID-19 case positivity rate declining in our community, San Juan Regional Medical Center is making some positive changes to our visitation policy," the facility's managers said in a news release. "Non-COVID patients are now allowed a maximum of two visitors per day, instead of one. We will continue to allow one visitor per day for our COVID patients to protect our caregivers and visitors."

The rules below, taken from a hospital release sent on Feb. 25,  apply to every hospital visitor:

• Visiting hours are between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.

• All visitors must be 18 or older.

• All visitors must pass a health screening, wear a face mask at all times (no valves, gators or bandanas) and practice proper hand hygiene.

For COVID patients:

• The hospital will continue to schedule the visit in advance with Patient Experience to ensure the safety of the visitor, staff and patients. 

• These visits can now be scheduled online at: www.sanjuanregional.com/schedule-appointment. If a visitor doesn't have internet access, they can call 505-609-6949.

• The Patient Experience staff plays an imperative role instructing visitors on proper PPE donning and doffing and how to safely handle themselves in the patient care environment.

"Patients visiting the San Juan Health Partners clinics, outpatient services at the hospital, and ancillary services are able to bring one support person with them to their appointment," the Feb. 25 release said.

For questions about this story please contact John R. Moses at 505-564-4624, or via email at jmoses@daily-times.com.

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