Published on February 27, 2020

NMHS Taking Proactive Approach to COVID-19

covid-19 precautionsNorth Mississippi Health Services is taking a proactive approach to educate staff and the public about COVID-19, a new strain of the coronavirus that is making international news.

“Our preparations include a multidisciplinary team, composed of physicians and other healthcare professionals, who are developing protocols and educational materials specific to COVID-19,” said Jeremy Blanchard, M.D., NMHS chief medical officer.

NMHS is following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines and is working closely with the Mississippi State Department of Health and the Alabama State Department of Health.

The first wave of preparations included educating emergency medicine staff at the North Mississippi Medical Centers in Tupelo, Amory, Eupora, Iuka, Pontotoc and West Point, Mississippi, and Hamilton, Alabama as well as North Mississippi Medical Clinics and North Mississippi Medical Center clinic locations throughout the hospital’s 24-county service area.

“For any patient who has traveled outside the United States in the last 30 days and COVID-19 is suspected, our Emergency Department staff knows to MIC them. The acronym stands for Mask, Isolate and Call the state health department in Mississippi or Alabama depending on the hospital’s location,” Dr. Blanchard said.   

Individuals seeking care at NMHS clinics and urgent cares will see signage posted at the entrances. The signs provide these instructions: Have you traveled to China AND have flu-like symptoms? STOP and please do not enter the building. Return to your vehicle and call 1-800-882-6274 for instructions on how to proceed with medical treatment.

NMHS is steering these calls to Nurse Link, a free telephone and health information service. Callers speak directly to a registered nurse and get immediate answers. Using computerized protocols, nurses direct callers to the most appropriate medical treatment. If COVID-19 is suspected, those calls will be directed to the Mississippi State Department of Health, who would direct the patient where to seek health care. Nurse Link is available in Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee with support from local providers as needed.

Individuals who call 911 seeking emergent medical treatment are encouraged to alert the dispatcher and responding crews of their travel history and symptoms if they fit the criteria for COVID-19.

Preparations also include procurement of medical supplies to treat this specific patient population. Employees will be instructed to use personal protective equipment (PPE) appropriately to ensure an adequate supply will be available in the event COVID-19 spreads to the NMHS service area.

“Ideally, anyone who fits the screening criteria for COVID-19 would call the hospital or doctor’s office before they arrive to help prevent the spread of infection,” Dr. Blanchard said.

The CDC does offer guidelines on how individuals can protect themselves and others. There are currently no vaccines available to protect against COVID-19. The risk of infection may be reduced by doing the following:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • For information about hand washing, see CDC’s Clean Hands Save Lives! https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/index.html

Individuals who have cold-like symptoms can help protect others by doing the following:

  • Stay home while you are sick
  • Avoid close contact with others
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, then throw the tissue in the trash and wash your hands
  • Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces

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