Perry is preparing for the COVID vaccine

Hospital is balancing an influx of COVID patients, testing demand

PRINCETON — While it’s unknown exactly when a COVID-19 vaccine will make its way to Perry Memorial Hospital, one thing is for certain — it’s coming and medical staff will be prepared for its arrival.

During Monday’s Perry Memorial Hospital board meeting, Debora May-Rickard, vice president of nursing, reported that the hospital has a team in place that is expecting a vaccine to become available around the last week of December, first week of January.

“It’s just a lot of darkness right now on what’s coming. We’re not getting a lot of clarity at this point,” she said.

Perry has registered for the vaccine, and while May-Rickard said news reports say vaccines could start moving as soon as Dec. 11, she hasn’t yet seen anything from the CDC that confirms that date.

“This information is trickling through and we will share it with the community and everybody as we get more clearer information from the CDC and such,” she said.

Initial vaccines most likely will be given to front line healthcare providers first and then skilled-care workers second, according to May-Rickard.

“They are prioritizing and controlling who we can give this vaccine to,” she said.

The vaccine will be offered to all Perry Memorial Hospital employees, but the hospital won’t mandate it initially, according to May-Rickard.

They have looked into the storage of the vaccine, and even put in the request for the subzero temperature storage some vaccines are said to require.

May-Rickard ended her report on Monday by saying how proud she is of the staff at Perry and their ability to handle the recent influx of COVID patients. They are prepared and managing it well, she added.

As of Tuesday morning, 11 of 25 beds at Perry Memorial Hospital were filled with COVID patients.

Along with the influx of COVID patients has come a higher demand for testing, which Perry has made some building modifications to enhance its testing service. Temporary walls were recently built in the main lobby, near the gift shop, to make a COVID clinic.

Scott Hartman, vice president of operations, reported Monday the need for the clinic came when realization set in that doing drive-up COVID testing during the winter months would be unbearable.

Hartman said the rural health clinic is currently staffing and manning the clinic eight hours a day, five days a week.

“They’ve been very busy these last couple of weeks testing and collecting and manning the COVID hotline calls,” he said.

Hartman also reported that Perry has been able to get more COVID testing in place than it had even a month ago due to the high demand.

A misconception about COVID testing at Perry was addressed during Monday’s meeting. It was bought to the hospital administration’s attention that some people in the community believe people who don’t have a doctor at Perry can’t get tested at Perry. Hartman confirmed that is not true.

Anyone can be tested Perry, even if their doctor is located at a different clinic or hospital. One thing that is required at Perry is a physician’s order. Perry asks that anyone who wants to get tested at Perry call the COVID hotline to receive help in getting a physician’s order before coming in for testing. If a patient already has the order, it can be brought to the testing clinic and a test can be completed.