Memorial ends its COVID emergency; stays prepared
July 14, 2021
NORTH CONWAY, NH – By March 9, 2020, a novel coronavirus -- SARS-CoV-2 – was gaining a foothold in North America. Memorial Hospital in North Conway had already spent several weeks reviewing the hospital’s readiness for a pandemic, staffing and other key resources. It was that day, March 9, that Memorial President Art Mathisen officially placed the hospital in an emergency status.
Memorial’s emergency status – a ‘Code White’ – ends Friday July 16, 2021 after 494 days. Memorial officials are quick to point out that “standing down” their emergency operations does not mean the threat of COVID-19 has been eliminated.
“There are still numerous COVID-19 cases each day in New Hampshire and often in our community, and emerging variants continue to worry us,” says Memorial President Art Mathisen. “Ending our emergency response reflects our assessment of risk for our community and allows us to focus resources to other patient care areas.” If needed, he says, “the Hospital can quickly return to a Code White.”
After the initial rush of vaccinations in December and January, rates have slowed considerably. The Memorial vaccine clinic, once open five-days-per week, is now only open Wednesdays from 8 am until 4 pm. The hospital, however, has been taking its clinic to public spaces, such as Settler’s Green and this weekend’s OutdoorFest in Schouler Park, to help make receiving a vaccine more convenient.
Memorial recently scaled back its COVID-19 vaccine administration and ended, at least for now, COVID-19 testing except as part of a health visit in the emergency department or walk-in clinic.
The hospital will continue offering COVID-19 testing for individuals presenting with symptoms to the emergency department, walk-in clinic or scheduled appointment in primary care as part of a health visit. While fewer employers and organizations are requiring a negative test to return to work or participate in activities, COVID-19 tests and test kits for asymptomatic testing are readily available through local pharmacies and health centers.
Mathisen reminds the community that at the beginning of its Code White, Memorial adopted what some considered strict requirements for hospital access to ensure patient and employee safety. These requirements included excluding all hospital visitors, suspending its volunteer program, and, for a short time, severely reducing non-essential health visits, procedures and surgeries.
“As we learned more about the virus over the past 494 days, how the virus spreads, and how to ensure safety, we’ve been able to slowly return operations since our first shutdown last March,” Mathisen says. “Our first responsibility is to our patients. So, we started with them and created a plan to re-open our primary and specialty care practices so they would not have to delay care.”
He added that the hospital visitor restrictions have also eased, though hours and number of visitors per patient are still limited. The other lesson learned over the past 494 days, says Mathisen, is the work and sacrifices this community experienced to keep friends and neighbors safe.
“I cannot say enough about how this community pulled together to make sure our residents and guests were safe. It was hard. We all know it was hard. And even though we are in a new phase, it is still not over. But, I am very pleased where we are today as a hospital and community,” says Mathisen.
About Memorial Hospital
Memorial Hospital is a not-for-profit 25-bed Critical Access Hospital located in North Conway, NH, and is a member of the MaineHealth family. Its hospital services include a 24-hour emergency department, surgery center, clinical laboratory, heart health & wellness programs, imaging services, cardiopulmonary care, family birthing center, oncology, chemotherapy and infusion services. Practices include primary care and family medicine, diabetes care, behavioral health, women's health, podiatry, orthopedics and physical therapy. Memorial Hospital is also home to The Merriman House nursing home, which provides senior care services in a comfortable, home-like setting. For more information, www.memorialhospitalnh.org or call 603-356-5461.