Sierra View Medical Center weathers pandemic storm

Medical center cites financial and medical achievements, zero COVID-19 transmission rate

PORTERVILLE – Hospitals and medical care facilities have been battered with crises amidst the coronavirus pandemic, but Porterville’s Sierra View Medical Center has risen to the challenge. They have recently cited multiple achievements financially and within the medical community.

Among the medical accolades stands the statistic of zero cases of COVID-19 transmission to patients or residents of Sierra View’s distinct skilled nursing facility. Sierra View’s administrative director of care and quality Melissa Fuentes said preventing hospital-acquired infections is a team effort from senior leadership down to every single staff member.

“For us to say that we have had zero patients that came in COVID negative but left COVID positive is a huge feat,” Fuentes said, “it goes to the absolute integrity of our staff making sure that they are wearing every bit of personal protective equipment (PPE) that’s uncomfortable, making sure they’re washing their hands at every point of care.”

Fuentes said leadership at Sierra View is dedicated to doing whatever it takes to secure protective gear. She said there have been times where it’s been scarce, but they currently have enough PPE. Following the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines for re-using PPE helped them weather a national shortage.

“We’ve been very fortunate in being able to extend use,” Fuentes said, “which means that we have been very protective of the gear that we have while we continue to scramble to obtain as much as we need going forward to keep us stocked.”

Sierra View has also had zero vancomycin-resistant enterococci, or carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae bacterial infections or catheter-associated urinary tract infections to date in 2020. A nationally reviewed statistic across healthcare. Fuentes said this year’s success preventing hospital acquired infections including COVID-19 is in big part thanks to a team in the infection control department that has an ongoing review of changing CDC guidelines.

“They keep us updated, they make sure that they’re doing rounds to make sure that the staff is feeling comfortable using those processes to make sure that they’re implemented correctly,” Fuentes said. “The bottom line is just a lot of education.”

Fuentes said she is also particularly proud of Sierra View’s recent recognition by the American Heart Association, receiving the silver and diabetic plus awards, given for consistent contribution to AHA’s mission of building healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke.

“That is a huge achievement,” Fuentes said, “because that is not a snapshot in time, but a consecutive measure that we held the standard for over 12 consecutive months.”

California Department of Public Health released an update easing nursing home visitation restrictions Oct. 23 for counties in the red, orange and yellow tiers. Tulare County remains in California’s purple tier—widespread COVID infections—which carries its own implications from the CDPH visitation guidelines at medical facilities.

Fuentes said at Sierra View, under the current guidelines certain types of patients are allowed just one visitor: pediatric, labor and delivery patients; pediatric patients and babies in intensive care; patients who are at the end of life; patients with physical, intellectual or developmental disabilities, and patients with cognitive impairments.

Fuentes understands that some patients in need of medical care might be fearful of coming on-site to receive treatment. She wants to reassure patients understand the “extraordinary measures that we take to make sure that they’re safe,” with extensive social distancing, increased hand hygiene gels for patients and staff, cleaning regimens and everyone being checked for signs and symptoms prior to entering the facility.

“We make sure that everyone is using universal masking to make sure that if there’s anything that may have slipped through, that is our precaution and our secondary measure to make sure that everyone’s safe,” Fuentes said. “I feel safer in the hospital setting when I come to work than I do when I go out and do my shopping.”

Fuentes advocated that people get the care they need, even in times of pandemic.

“Whether it’s through their regular primary care physician to make sure that they’re maintaining their health, or if they’ve gotten into a state where it’s requiring higher level of care in a hospital setting, please come in,” Fuentes said, “because delaying that could be very detrimental to their long term health.”

While recognition for achievements is nice, Fuentes said the team at Sierra View continues to look to higher quality and patient safety.

“It’s never a destination, always a journey,” Fuentes said. “We’ll always be looking for more, we continue to strive for higher benchmarks as we achieve the others.”

Sierra View announced more good news last Friday. Following a financial audit by accounting firm Moss Adams, Sierra View said they are in a strong financial position as of June 30. Sierra View highlighted their debt to capitalization ratio, which they said compares favorably to similar hospitals in Northern and Central California. While the rest of fall and winter loom with COVID rates running rampant across the country, Sierra View said they’ve endured the financial impact from the pandemic that left similar hospitals crippled, despite not having a significant amount of government relief and support.

Sierra View Medical Center announced their zero rate of transmission among patients in the Porterville hospital, and their well weathered financial status.Photo courtesy of Sierra View Medical Center

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