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North Oaks Health System Begins Operations to Deal With COVID-19

Effective March 13, 2020, North Oaks Health System has implemented a triage system and other tactics in response to the COVID-19 pandemic declared by the World Health Organization.

President and CEO Michele Sutton announced the health system’s response plan following a summit North Oaks hosted with area officials Wednesday.

Beginning today, she said, North Oaks will implement a triage system to evaluate and test patients with COVID-19 symptoms. The response plan also addresses patient and visitor screenings, patient masking, limited hospital entry points, visitation hours, visitor restrictions and support of social distancing recommendations.

Individuals with symptoms or concerns are asked to contact their primary care provider or call the North Oaks COVID-19 Screening Line at (985) 230-2778 for evaluation, she said.

“North Oaks Health System is implementing measures to minimize disease spread with the safety and well-being of the community at large as our utmost concern,” Sutton said. “This is a very fluid situation, and we view it as our responsibility to take a leading role in working with parish and local government officials, hospitals and health care providers, first responders and employers as a trusted partner and source of the most current information.”

The North Oaks triage team will determine if individuals meet guidelines for testing based on travel to Europe, Asia or cruises, contact with someone confirmed to have COVID-19/Coronavirus, and symptoms of fever, cough and shortness of breath, she said.

When criteria are met, cases will be escalated to a designated health care provider for further evaluation and/or testing via telemedicine, an in-person appointment at one of four designated North Oaks clinics, drive-thru testing in a secure setting or direct admission to the medical center.

“Those requiring hospitalization are mostly the elderly or patients with underlying chronic health conditions,” said Dr. Stacy Newman, infectious disease specialist. “Most individuals with COVID-19 are able to self-isolate and recover at home. Medical care focuses on symptom management because there are no definitive medications available at this time to treat COVID-19.”

Pre-check-in stations will be implemented at North Oaks hospitals, diagnostic centers and clinics to screen patients and visitors before entry, Sutton said. Patients with a cough will be required to mask for their safety.

Symptomatic individuals will not be allowed to visit a hospitalized patient at the medical center or the rehabilitation hospital. FaceTime, a phone call or e-Cards, which are available on the health system’s website at, will be suggested as alternatives to in-person visits.

For screening purposes, access to the medical center will be reduced to two entry points on weekdays and one on weekends. On weekdays, entry points will be the main entrance on Paul Vega, M.D., Drive and the emergency room on Jay Smith, M.D. Drive. On weekends, the emergency room will be the sole entry point. All other entrances to the hospital will be closed.

Hospital visiting hours will be 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. until further notice.

The number of visitors allowed for patients at the medical center and the rehabilitation hospital will be restricted to one adult at a time. Visitors must be 18 years of age or older. Pediatric patients will be allowed to have both parents visit at the same time. For Neonatal Intensive Care Unit patients, only parents will be allowed to visit.

All tours, community classes, meetings, support groups and events booked on North Oaks campuses will be suspended for the next 30 days.

All in-person volunteer activities at North Oaks facilities have been suspended for the next 30 days.

Dr. Robert Peltier, who is North Oaks’ chief medical officer as well as internal medicine and tropical medicine specialist, advised, “The best prevention against the spread of viruses like COVID-19 is to wash your hands frequently, avoid touching your face, cough into your elbow or tissue that can be thrown away, and stay at home when you are sick.”

Sutton said North Oaks is working closely with parish officials and fellow community hospitals, Hood Memorial Hospital in Amite and Lallie Kemp Medical Center in Independence, in leading efforts to minimize and respond to the potential impact of this virus. Our goal is to protect the health of our patients, workforce and the community, and do our part to minimize the spread of COVID-19.”

“The community can rest assured that North Oaks’ staff maintains a constant state of readiness to respond to emerging infections like COVID-19 should the need arise,” Peltier added. “Preparations include year-round drills, education and training and the maintenance of supplies and equipment such as masks, ventilators and negative air pressure rooms. We take these precautions to best protect the health of our patients and staff.”

They recommend the following websites for COVID-19 updates:


Courtesy of The Daily Star

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