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Four COVID-19 patients were treated at St. Joseph’s Hospital during recent Coronavirus uptick

BUCKHANNON – During the recent uptick in COVID-19 cases, St. Joseph’s Hospital was treating as many as four COVID-19 patients, but by Monday, they were down to one.

The Buckhannon-Upshur Chamber of Commerce met with St. Joseph’s staff virtually for their monthly meeting Monday, Oct. 19, in order to receive an update from the hospital. Skip Gjolberg, St. Joseph’s hospital president and administrator, talked about the impact COVID-19 has had on the hospital and the increase of cases in Upshur County.

During the meeting, Upshur County was classified as an orange county, and Gjolberg talked about the increased accessibility of testing in the county.

“We’ve been doing a lot a lot of testing – both here at the hospital and up at the high school, and we’ve seen an uptick [in COVID-19 cases],” Gjolberg said. “At the beginning, we didn’t have any COVID-19 admissions at all, and then we would have one and then another one, but never a lot. With this recent uptick, we got as high as four COVID-19 patients for a few days, and I think today we may have one.”

He said hospital began making preparations and implementing precautions for COVID-19 patients in February and March.

“We stopped doing elective procedures; we only did urgent procedures, and the hospital emptied out, the ER wasn’t busy, and people were not coming in,” Gjolberg said. “The clinics got slow, and we started doing a lot of telemedicine – either telephone calls or via videoconferencing, so things really were like a ghost town for us at the beginning because we didn’t see COVID-19 patients.”

“In July, we started doing OR cases again, and the ER started getting a little busier,” Gjolberg added. “We started to see an increase in our in-patients and our ambulatory volumes, so things started coming back to life. The OR is probably as busy as it’s ever been, while the ER has never really gone back to pre-COVID, so I think that’s going to continue to take more time.”

St. Joseph’s had performed about 2,475 COVID-19 tests since April 16 as of Oct. 19.

“We’ve had about 161 positives, and these positives come from all over because we not only do Upshur County, but also Randolph County, Barbour County and Lewis County, and a lot of these positives were asymptomatic, so they went home and quarantined, or they had slight symptoms and they just went home.”

There is a trailer set up outside St. Joseph’s where people can be tested if they have an order from a physician.

“You can drive up in your car, and we will come out and we will touch your brain with a Q-tip up your nose,” Gjolberg joked. “I know at the high school they’re doing both nostrils.”

Testing is available from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday.

The hospital is also offering a nurse hotline where people can call and ask a nurse anything about COVID-19.

“People can call if they have a question, if they think they got exposed and they’re not sure if they might have it,” Gjolberg said. “That’s open seven days a week, Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., and then Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and we have literally gotten tons and tons of calls.”

The phone number is 304-473-2161.

Gjolberg also talked about new services that will be available at the hospital, including an ophthalmology clinic in building B that went live Oct. 19.

“We’d already been in planning to acquire this clinic to have ophthalmology and originally, they were at the bottom of the hill at building C, but we moved them up to Building B once we finished doing the facelift on Dr. Black’s old space,” Gjolberg said.

A new pain management clinic also opened Oct. 20 in Building C.

“This is interventional pain management, so not managing people with chronic pain with medications, but managing someone’s chronic pain with an intervention so that could be an injection, that could be using different types of tools to freeze or burn nerves that are transmitting pain that we can basically stop,” Gjolberg said.

The hospital also plans to open an open wound care clinic in 2021 in Building B.

“This is for people who have these chronic wounds they have just lived with, and they don’t need to,” Gjolberg said. “Those things can be healed, but they have to be managed by a group that knows what they’re doing.”

In January 2021 they are also planning to have a pulmonologist – an internal medicine doctor who specializes in the respiratory system – available for a couple days a month.

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