With First County Case of COVID-19, JCH&L Continues Precautions

As Jefferson County now has its first confirmed case of COVID-19, Jefferson Community Health & Life continues precautions designed to keep staff, patients and visitors healthy.

The newest measure is that all who enter JCH&L facilities will now be masked. Staff have been masking for several weeks any time they are within 6 feet of other staff or patients. Patients have only been masked if they have symptoms or having screening concerns (such as travel.)

JCH&L encourages patients to bring their own face mask if they have one, to help conserve JCH&L supplies for medical needs.

JCH&L continues to recommend that the public limit social contact and distance when you must have contact, mask if you are in a public place, wash your hands frequently, and don’t touch your face.

Gov. Pete Ricketts has announced that hospitals can resume elective procedures as of May 4. In light of the first case being diagnosed in the county, JCH&L will be taking this step very slowly and cautiously. If the situation allows, some elective services may begin in mid-May. JCH&L continues to monitor the situation and will plan for the best interest of patients and staff. Those with questions about specific outpatient services should call 402-729-6851.

Currently, JCH&L continues to provide essential patient services, as ordered by the medical provider.

All entrances to the health center remain locked at all times. The outpatient and emergency entrance is staffed 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. to screen those who enter.

Those who have emergency needs with no respiratory symptoms are asked to use the ER/Outpatient entrance and if the entrance is not staffed, pick up the telephone in the vestibule to contact nursing services and explain their need. Those who have respiratory symptoms are asked to call 402-729-3351 and ask for nursing to receive instructions for being seen.

JCH&L continues to limit hospital patients to 1 designated visitor per room. Visitors should use the ER/Outpatient entrance and will be screened. They will continue to be asked to mask, are asked to use their mask for a week unless it becomes visibly soiled. If the door is not staffed, please pick up the telephone in the entry way to contact the nurses station for direction.

Many other necessary precautions had already been put in place before Jefferson County had its first case, and these precautions will continue.

Precautions already in place:

  • JCH&L Fairbury Clinic is encouraging all visits, whether healthy or sick, to be done via Virtual Visits.  This may vary by provider and the reason for the visit, which can be discussed when you call the Fairbury Clinic at 402-729-3361, option 1, to schedule an appointment. If during a Virtual Visit the provider determines that further evaluation needs to be done, the provider will give the patient further direction on how this will take place.
  • JCH&L Fairbury Clinic patients with respiratory symptoms are being seen in their vehicles. This allows the clinic to continue to be safely utilized for patients with other health concerns who need to be seen in person.
  • JCH&L Gardenside and Cedarwood are CLOSED to all non-essential personnel, including family members.
  • The JCH&L cafeteria is closed to the public. It will remain open only to staff.
  • Immunization clinics regularly offered twice at month at Jefferson Community Health & Life Outpatient Services by Blue Valley Community Action have been suspended until further notice.
  • Women’s Health Days offered monthly by JCH&L Radiology and Fairbury Clinic are suspended until further notice.
  • Volunteers are not coming to the facility until further notice.
  • JCH&L Plymouth Clinic will be closed until further notice.
  • JCH&L Burkley Fitness Center is closed.
  • All support groups and outside programs have been postponed until further notice. This includes Parkinson’s Support Group, Alzheimer’s Caregivers Support Group, Health Today and Smart Moves lifestyle change program
  • Patients for all services continue to be screened for recent travel to areas of high incidence/community spread, signs and symptoms of respiratory infection (fever, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat), and whether they have had any contact with persons who have been diagnosed or are under investigation for having COVID-19. Hospital or clinic patients with positive screening results will be cared for appropriately and given guidance and direction.

Primary Health Care Remains Important in COVID Pandemic

While many areas of healthcare have experienced dramatic changes because of the COVID pandemic, primary health care remains important. Jefferson Community Health & Life reminds everyone not to neglect important health needs.

“JCH&L will see patients with any type of health concern, and we encourage those with health concerns to seek the appropriate care,” said Vic Lee, interim CEO at Jefferson Community Health & Life. “While we encourage those seeking routine preventative care to postpone, we don’t want anyone with health concerns to put their health on hold because of the COVID pandemic. We are striving to offer our services in ways that will protect our patients, our staff and our community.”

For those who are feeling well and not having any health concerns, it is recommended that physicals and other routine visits be postponed for now. However, anyone having problems with chronic health concerns – such as blood sugar, blood pressure, heart concerns, thyroid, etc. –should be seen by a primary care provider. In addition, anyone who has something new develop which is a health concern – symptoms of illness, infection, injury, cancer, etc. –should also be seen.

JCH&L Fairbury Clinic is encouraging all visits be done via Virtual Visits, if possible.  This may vary by provider and the reason for the visit, which can be discussed when you call the Fairbury Clinic at 402-729-3361 to schedule an appointment.

If during a Virtual Visit the provider determines that further evaluation needs to be done, the provider will give the patient further direction on how this will take place.

If you have questions regarding Virtual Visits at JCH&L Fairbury Clinic or to make an appointment, you can call 402-729-3361, option 1.

Currently, patients with respiratory concerns are seen at their vehicle at JCH&L Fairbury Clinic. By seeing respiratory patients at the vehicle, the clinic is working to keep clinic exam rooms available for patients with other health concerns.

Some patients who see a specialist at Jefferson Community Health & Life Outpatient Services for followup may have the opportunity to visit with their specialist through technology from their own home. Both Bryan Heart and Genesis Psychiatric Group have been working with some patients who need followup to do so by telephone.

Patients who have specialist clinic visits scheduled (or who feel they need a specialist clinic visit) should call that specific specialty clinic’s main office directly to find out what options they may have.

Most outpatient specialty clinics which come to JCH&L have been suspended for now. Only essential services are being offered.

Those with questions about a specific clinic may contact JCH&L Outpatient Services at 402-729-6851.

JCH&L’s emergency department remains available to see all types of emergencies. Patients are asked to call first if not arriving by ambulance. The JCH&L nursing staff will direct the patient to the appropriate entrance for their specific needs. At this time, those with respiratory symptoms are seen in a different area than non-respiratory symptoms.

Examples of emergency needs include sudden onset of chest pain, loss of consciousness, convulsions, pain that can’t be tolerated or controlled, severe shortness of breath, severe reaction to insect bites or medicines, poisoning, unexplained disorientation or drowsiness, major injury, or uncontrollable bleeding.

All entrances to JCH&L’s health center are now locked at all times. Those who have emergency needs with no respiratory symptoms are asked to use the ER/Outpatient entrance and pick up the telephone in the vestibule to contact nursing services and explain their need. Those who have respiratory symptoms are asked to call 402-729-3351 and ask for nursing to receive instructions for being seen.

COVID-19 Testing Availability Increasing

The availability of testing for COVID-19 is increasing in Jefferson County and throughout the state.

“Testing has been extremely limited until now due to lack of reagents and supplies. We have followed testing guidelines from the Nebraska Department of Health on who should be tested based on testing supplies available,” said Amber Brunow, infection preventionist at JCH&L. “Our providers continue to do their best to identify any COVID-19 positives in our county, and now will have more availability of ordering COVID-19 testing.”

The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services publishes an online map which shows county-by-county testing numbers and results. It can be accessed at:

https://nebraska.maps.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/4213f719a45647bc873ffb58783ffef3

As of 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 22, Jefferson County had done 21 COVID-19 tests, with no positives.

“We expect to see an increase in the number of COVID-19 tests being performed statewide, as well as in our county,” Brunow said.

When testing was more limited, guidelines recommended that those who had possible COVID-19 symptoms but were not seriously ill be advised to do self care and quarantine without being tested.

“Per DHHS and CDC guidelines, prior to available testing those who were not critically ill and did not require hospitalization were asked to quarantine at home for 7 days after symptom onset and 3 days from last fever without the use of fever reducing medications. The providers encouraged these individuals to self monitor at home and call back with any concerns including: difficulty breathing and fevers that could not be reduced with Tylenol,” Brunow said.

As testing becomes more available, many who test positive would still likely not require hospitalization and can isolate at home and do self care, and will be asked to report any changes or concerns.

The additional availability of testing will be a great help in identifying those who have COVID-19, Brunow said.

Symptoms of COVID-19 include cough, shortness of breath, sore throat and fever.

Anyone who has symptoms should contact JCH&L Fairbury Clinic at 402-729-3361, option 1, to make an appointment for a Virtual or in-person visit. Anyone who has symptoms which are of an emergency nature should contact JCH&L at 402-729-3351 for instructions.

JCH&L Gardenside Residents, Cedarwood Tenants Appreciate Mask Donations

Based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control, residents at Jefferson Community Health & Life Gardenside and tenants at Cedarwood assisted living are now encouraged to wear cloth face coverings when they are in a room with others. The residents and tenants appreciate the many donations of hand-crafted cloth facemask that have been received.

“CDC recommends the use of cloth face masks for residents and tenants to make sure we are stopping the spread even if a resident or tenant does not have symptoms, but may be infected,” said Deb Sutton, administrator of JCH&L Gardenside and Cedarwood.

At least seven individuals from the area have already donated hand-crafted cloth face masks for the use of residents and tenants. More continue to be welcome, to allow residents and tenants to have more than one mask, so they may be laundered regularly. Anyone interested in donating cloth face masks should contact Lana Likens at 402-729-6855.

“Staff and residents all appreciate the generous spirit of our area residents who are willing to share of their time and talents to help keep residents, tenants and staff members safe,” Sutton said.

Staff members at both Gardenside and Cedarwood wear medical masks any time they are going to be within 6 feet of residents, tenants or fellow staff members.

The CDC has recently begun recommending that the public wear cloth masks when they are in community settings and will be near people. Medical masks should not be worn by the public, but should be reserved for medical professionals, according to the CDC guidance. The cloth mask should cover both nose and mouth. This recommendation is designed to prevent those who are infected but don’t have symptoms from spreading the illness. Wearing a cloth face covering does not reduce the need for social distancing, frequent hand washing, and other every day preventative measures.

More information is available at www.CDC.gov.

Gardenside and Cedarwood have been totally closed to visitors and any non-essential personnel since March 14. On March 11, visitors were discouraged and any visitors were screened for travel, symptoms and contact with anyone was suspected to have COVID-19.

Family and friends have found many creative ways to show their loves they care: Skype and Facetime; email; phone calls; visits outside windows; cards and letters; and dropping off flowers and other treats.

Anyone who needs assistance connecting with residents or tenants may call Gardenside at 402-729-5220, or Cedarwood at 402-729-6100.

JCH&L Celebrates Occupational Therapy Month

Cassidy Bentley MOT, OTR/L, is the occupational therapist at JCH&L Sports Medicine & Rehab Services. During April, we celebrate Occupational Therapy Month and thank her for her contributions to the health and wellness of our patients.

What is occupational therapy? Occupational therapy is the only profession that helps people across the lifespan to do the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of daily activities (also known as occupations). Occupational therapy practitioners enable people of all ages to live life to its fullest by helping them promote health, and prevent—or live better with—injury, illness, or disability.

Common occupational therapy interventions include helping children with disabilities to participate fully in school and social situations, helping people recovering from injury to regain skills, and providing supports for older adults experiencing physical and cognitive changes.

Occupational therapy services typically include:

  • an individualized evaluation, during which the client/family and occupational therapist determine the person’s goals,
  • customized intervention to improve the person’s ability to perform daily activities and reach the goals, and
  • an outcomes evaluation to ensure that the goals are being met and/or make changes to the intervention plan.

Occupational therapy practitioners have a holistic perspective, in which the focus is on adapting the environment and/or task to fit the person, and the person is an integral part of the therapy team. It is an evidence-based practice deeply rooted in science.

Bentley is a Bruning native and has been on staff at JCH&L Sports Medicine & Rehab Services since October 2019. She graduated with her bachelor’s degree in exercise science and a minor in health science from the University of Nebraska-Kearney in 2017. She graduated with her Master’s degree in Occupational Therapy from Nebraska Methodist College in 2019. She is certified in women’s health, and especially enjoys working with hands (fractures, tendon repairs, etc.); neurological concerns (such as strokes, traumatic brain injury, etc.); and inpatients to help them restore activity tolerance so they can get back to participating in their everyday lives.

JCH&L Recognizes Organ Donation Month

Jefferson Community Health & Life recognizes Organ Donation Month in April. Donate Life Month is a national observance to share the importance of registering to be a donor, honor deceased and living donors and recognize the lifesaving and healing gift of transplantation.

JCH&L flew the organ donation flag on Wednesday, April 8, along with other individuals and businesses. On Thursday, April 16, staff are invited to wear blue and green to raise awareness for organ donation, and for a donation of $5 to Live on Nebraska, staff can also wear their denim to work that day. Live on Nebraska is a conduit for transplantation, partnering with hospitals in Nebraska and Pottawattamie County, Iowa to facilitate the recovery of organs and tissues from those who choose to donate life.

JCH&L works with Live on Nebraska for potential organ, tissue and eye donation. In 2019, JCH&L referred 8 eligible tissue donors and 2 eligible eye donors. There we no eligible organ donors referred in 2019.

“The impact one donor can have is incredible,” said Kyle Herber, President & CEO of Live On Nebraska. “Donate Life Month gives us the opportunity to celebrate the heroes that have already given the gift of life and to educate others on how they can make a difference through donation.”

Every individual has the potential to save and heal 100 people with the donation of organs and tissues. These include the heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, pancreas, small intestine, corneas, bone, skin, tendons, veins and heart valves.

Governor Pete Ricketts has declared April as Donate Life Month in Nebraska. The governor’s proclamation recognizes the 900 Nebraska donor heroes who gave the gift of life in 2019, a record number for our state. The proclamation also acknowledges the 400 people in Nebraska and more than 110,00 throughout the Unites States who are waiting for a lifesaving organ transplant.

Of the 400 people waiting for a transplant in Nebraska, the majority are waiting for a kidney (234) or liver (124). Twelve are under the age of 18. Minority populations account for 23% of Nebraska’s waiting list.

An outdoor display on the lawn of Live On Nebraska’s office in Omaha is dedicated to those on the waiting list. Four hundred green and blue flags represent each person who is waiting for a second chance at life.

Nebraskans are also encouraged to register as donors this month. Anyone age 16 or older can register as an organ and tissue donor. Age, health and lifestyle do not limit an individual’s ability to register. Donor registration is available online anytime at LiveOnNebraska.org.

Individuals can also consider living donation. Living donors most often provide a kidney or a portion of their liver to those in need of a transplant. Living donation is not included in donor registration online or at the DMV. To be considered for living donation, contact Nebraska Medicine.

JCH&L Auxiliary Spring Salad Festival Postponed

FAIRBURY — The Spring Salad Festival of the Jefferson Community Health & Life Auxiliary has been postponed. The festival, which has been a community event since 1965, was originally scheduled for May 7 at the Fairbury Elks Lodge.

“With the current COVID situation and Directed Health Measures in place for Jefferson County through May 11, postponement is necessary,” said Lana Likens, director of public relations at Jefferson Community Health & Life. “We will continue to monitor the area’s situation, regulations and requirements, and make a decision at a later date about possible rescheduling.”

The Spring Salad Festival is the main fund-raising event of the auxiliary. The auxiliary provides scholarships to students entering medical fields, provides Christmas gifts for residents of the Gardenside long-term care at Jefferson Community Health & Life, and provides volunteer help at JCH&L in a variety of projects.

Anyone interested in more information about the auxiliary or the salad festival should contact Lana Likens at (402) 729-6855.

Changes Continue Because of COVID-19

JCH&L Fairbury Clinic is encouraging all visits, whether healthy or sick, to be done via Virtual Visits.  This may vary by provider and the reason for the visit, which can be discussed when you call the Fairbury Clinic at 402-729-3361 to schedule an appointment.

If during a Virtual Visit the provider determines that further evaluation needs to be done, the provider will give the patient further direction on how this will take place.

If you have questions regarding Virtual Visits at JCH&L Fairbury Clinic, you can call 402-729-3361, option 2. To make an appointment, use option 1.

Some patients who see a specialist at Jefferson Community Health & Life Outpatient Services for followup may have the opportunity to visit with their specialist through technology from their own home. Both Bryan Heart and Genesis Psychiatric Group have been working with some patients who need followup to do so by telephone.

Patients who have specialist clinic visits scheduled (or who feel they need a specialist clinic visit) should call that specific specialty clinic’s main office directly to find out what options they may have.

Most outpatient specialty clinics which come to JCH&L have been suspended for now. Only essential services are being offered.

Those with questions about a specific clinic may contact JCH&L Outpatient Services at 402-729-6851.

All entrances to JCH&L’s health center are now locked at all times. Those who have emergency needs with no respiratory symptoms are asked to use the ER/Outpatient entrance and pick up the telephone in the vestibule to contact nursing services and explain their need. Those who have respiratory symptoms are asked to call 402-729-3351 and ask for nursing to receive instructions for being seen.

Those who have other needs – such as questions on bills, requests for medical records information, etc., are asked to call 402-729-3351.

Hospital patients are now limited to 1 visitor per room. Visitors should use the ER/Outpatient entrance and will be screened. If the door is not staffed, please pick up the telephone in the entry way to contact the nurses station for direction.

The Jefferson Community Health & Life Auxiliary Annual Spring Salad Festival has been postponed from its May 7 date.

“We are uncertain whether we will be able to reschedule this fund-raiser for this year,” said Lana Likens, director of public relations. “We thank those who have been faithful supporters of this event, which has been a fund-raiser for the Auxiliary’s projects since 1965.”

JCH&L has been implementing a number of precautionary measures in preparation for possible cases of COVID-19. Although there are no confirmed cases in Jefferson County, there are cases in Gage County, which is also part of our five-county public health district.

The number of Nebraskans diagnosed continues to grow.

Reminders of precautions already in place:

  • JCH&L Gardenside and Cedarwood are CLOSED to all non-essential personnel, including family members.
  • The JCH&L cafeteria is closed to the public. It will remain open only to staff.
  • Immunization clinics regularly offered twice at month at Jefferson Community Health & Life Outpatient Services by Blue Valley Community Action have been suspended until further notice.
  • Women’s Health Days offered monthly by JCH&L Radiology and Fairbury Clinic are suspended until further notice.
  • Volunteers are not coming to the facility until further notice.
  • JCH&L Sports Medicine and Rehab Services is limiting to patients requiring essential services.
  • Non-essential services are being postponed at the patient’s medical provider’s discretion.
  • JCH&L Plymouth Clinic will be closed until further notice.
  • JCH&L Burkley Fitness Center is closed.
  • Patients are encouraged NOT to drop bill payments off at the clinic. Please call for other alternatives.
  • All support groups and outside programs have been postponed until further notice. This includes Parkinson’s Support Group, Alzheimer’s Caregivers Support Group, Health Today and Smart Moves lifestyle change program
  • Sterling Connection trips for April have been cancelled.
  • Patients for all services continue to be screened for recent travel to areas of high incidence/community spread, signs and symptoms of respiratory infection (fever, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat), and whether they have had any contact with persons who have been diagnosed or are under investigation for having COVID-19. Hospital or clinic patients with positive screening results will be cared for appropriately and given guidance and direction.

JCH&L Among Top 20 Critical Access Hospitals for Quality

Jefferson Community Health & Life has been named one of the Top 20 Critical Access Hospitals (CAHs) for quality in the country.

The Top 20 Critical Access Hospitals scored best among critical access hospitals as determined by The Chartis Center for Rural Health for quality. The rankings were recently announced by the National Rural Health Association (NRHA). An awards ceremony will be held during NRHA’s Critical Access Hospital Conference in September in Kansas City, Mo.

Those hospitals that have been recognized as Top 20 Critical Access Hospital “best practice recipients” have achieved success one of two key areas of performance:

Quality index: A rating of hospital performance based on the percentile rank across the indicators of Hospital Compare Process of Care measures.

Patient perspective index: A rating of hospital performance aggregated and ranked across 10  domains of the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS).

They were selected from The Chartis Center for Rural Health’s 2020 Top 100 CAH list, which was released earlier this year.

“Jefferson Community Health & Life is proud of the efforts of its physicians and staff who have contributed to our hospital achieving this designation,” said Victor Lee, MHA, LFACHE.

“Our results as a top 20 hospital in quality means our community can count on us to deliver the services they need now and in the future.”

Jefferson Community Health & Life has a history of nationwide recognition as a critical access hospital. In February JCH&L was named a Top 100 Critical Access Hospital in the United States for the sixth time in seven years. JCH&L scored in the top 100 of critical access hospitals (CAHs) on the iVantage Strength INDEX™ in 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2015 and 2014

In May 2018, JCH&L was recognized by The Chartis Center and the National Rural Health Association for being in the Top 20 Critical Access Hospitals in the nation for 2018.

In November 2019, JCH&L was recognized for the third consecutive year with the Performance Leadership Award for overall excellence in quality, outcomes and patient perspective. The Performance Leadership Award is given by the Chartis Center for Rural Health/iVantage Health Analytics and the National Organization of State Office of Rural Health (NOSORH).

“These recognitions reaffirm that our emphasis on quality, performance and satisfaction are making a difference to the people we serve and to our health center,” Lee said.