Schneck to begin reopening departments

Schneck Medical Center in Seymour is planning to resume a sense of normalcy this week after a month of operating under COVID-19 restrictions.

The hospital announced Tuesday it will begin reopening departments and scheduling appointments and procedures again in light of Gov. Eric Holcomb’s announcement Monday he was going to loosen some of his previous orders.

“We took the stance early on to really limit exposures by decreasing our diagnostic imaging center as well as our laboratory,” said Dr. Eric Fish, executive vice president and chief operating officer at Schneck. “We’ll be opening those all back up to full capacity this week.”

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That includes the hospital’s endoscopy department, he said.

On Monday, the hospital will begin low-risk outpatient surgeries and slowly phase in elective surgeries.

“One of the things we’re hearing across the state is people are avoiding their health care, especially patients who are high risk, patients with congestive heart failure and uncontrolled diabetes and people who really need to be seen,” Fish said. “So we’ll be opening back up all of our Schneck clinics on Monday, both to essential and nonessential appointments. We want to make sure the people who are needing that health care continue to get that health care.”

But it won’t be business as usual, Fish said, as the hospital will continue to take protective measures, including social distancing and making all staff wear masks and goggles and patients wear face masks.

Patients, visitors and staff will continue to be screened for COVID-19 symptoms, including fever, cough and difficulty breathing, before they enter the hospital.

“We recognize there may be some anxiety for some patients when they come into the facility,” he said. “Our No. 1 goal is to protect people who are in our facilities when they are here.”

Dr. Christopher Bunce, county health officer with the Jackson County Health Department and infectious disease specialist at Schneck, said the health department will start to ramp up its annual immunization program in early May.

But like the hospital, it will continue to implement social distancing.

“As we start to ease restrictions, as the governor said, it’s going to be methodical, it’s going to be a process,” he said. “The new normal will not be the old normal. Every business and government office has to have its own well-thought-out process because we have to remember that herd immunity is very low.”

Herd immunity refers to the number of people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have developed some immunity to the virus as a result.

“That situation is perfect for a second surge, so we have to really stay vigilant and mindful of our processes,” he said.

As of Tuesday, the hospital had tested 722 patients for COVID-19 with 142 positive cases, 474 negative, 99 still pending and seven insufficient samples.

Of the positive cases, 86 are from Jackson County, 29 from Jennings County, 12 from Scott County, six from Washington County, five in Bartholomew County and one each in Lawrence, Jefferson, Brown and Clark counties.

There are a total of 98 positive cases reported in Jackson County with no deaths, according to the Indiana State Department of Health.

Fish said the hospital will continue to offer its COVID-19 hotline to the community, but it will no longer be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Due to a decreasing volume of calls, Fish said beginning April 27, the hotline will be staffed by medical professionals to answer COVID-19-related questions and advise patients from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays. The hotline will not be staffed Sundays.

The hospital also plans to continue to use Schneck Urgent Care on South Jackson Park Drive as a respiratory clinic from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

Since opening March 27, the clinic has seen 480 patients, performed 309 COVID-19 tests with 71 positive cases, 167 negative, 63 tests still pending and seven insufficient samples.