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Updates from Pondera Medical Center

4:30 pm, April 6th, 2020


PMC would like to update our community on the restrictions we have implemented and steps we are taking to plan for, and help, contain the spread of COVID-19 in the event that it reaches Pondera County. We are working closely with federal, state and local officials everyday to monitor and address the situation. As of April 6th, there are zero conformed cases in Pondera County.

The PMC Rural Health Clinic continues to see patients. For those who have scheduled a physical visit, you will be screened over the phone and given instructions regarding how to enter the clinic. In certain instances, you may be instructed to defer your visit till your provider deems it is a safer time for you to visit. For those desiring same day appointments, please call ahead 271-3231 so we can properly manage your encounter. If you desire a visit with your provider, but would rather not come to the clinic, you may want to utilize our new telehealth services. These services allow our 4 full-time family medicine providers (We currently have 5 full-time providers; but Aaron Dahle, PA-C, remains on Military Leave) to continue seeing patients via a private, secure Zoom Conference Meeting. Heather Johns, Doctor of Nursing Practice at the PMC Rural Health Clinic speaks to telehealth, saying: “It’s a very simple way for you to stay home and for us to give you the medical care you deserve! How is works is you will be scheduled, just as if you were coming into the clinic. We will email you a link and instructions how to connect with us. We will meet via video conferencing and discuss your needs.” PMC feels very grateful that we have been able to establish this service. We will continue to serve the medical needs of our entire area. If you are interested in a telehealth visit with the PMC Rural Health Clinic, please call and request a telehealth visit and see if you qualify. The clinic can be reach at 406-271-3231. Our family medicine providers include:

Dr. Jay Taylor

David Arends, PA-C

Edie Ellsworth, FNP-BC

Heather Johns, D-NP

We are preparing in the event that COVID-19 presents in Pondera County. The symptoms of COVID-19 can vary from mild to severe respiratory illness. A key indicator of your risk is whether you have visited certain countries, states or communities; or were exposed to someone who could have COVID-19.

Symptoms include: Fever of 100.4° or more, cough, sore throat and shortness of breath.

Let’s talk about testing. The number 1 question we hear is: Should I get tested? This is really dependent on the availability of testing in your community. If you are showing symptoms, take precaution as though you have COVID-19. By assuming you have COVID-19, you can reduce it’s spread by isolating yourself. If you are showing symptoms and handling them, wait a couple days to see if conditions improve. Ask yourself if you have shortness of breath. Shortness of breath is the most telling symptom that your condition could be COVID-19.

If you have concerns about COVID, do not go directly to the ER or to the PMC Rural Health Clinic. We strongly encourage you to call the Pondera County Health Department, first. The Health Department can provide you the best course of action based on your symptoms. Our healthcare providers will work closely with the Health Department how we can best serve you. Before visiting our facility, Please Call First at 406-271-3231 (Clinic) or 406-271-3211 (Hospital main line for after hours or weekends.)

We continue to allow no visitation to our Hospital or Extended Care Facility. For the safety and protection of those we serve, we are limiting non-essential Outpatient Services, including Cardiac Rehab, Pulmonary Rehab and Rehabilitation Services. Our Clinic is continuing to see patients; but all visitors are screened upon entry and your entry point will be determined by the nature of your visit. We ask that you please all ahead. At this time, MRI and Mammo services are unavailable. The PMC Wellness Center is closed to the public. If you need Durable Medical Equipment supplies, please call ahead to arrange pickup. At this time, we are not offering the "Birthday Lab" panel from our Laboratory Department. Ambulance Services are responding to calls; but ask that callers disclose symptoms up front to dispatch. If you are in need of CPAP supplies, please call DME first and arrange for Diane to meet you at the screening station in our facility.

Our best opportunity to reduce the spread of COVID-19 is social distancing. The only sure way to fully recover from COVID-19 is to not get it. Assume that all communities have COVID-19 and take precautions accordingly. We are strongly encouraging everyone to stay home as much as possible. Keep your circle very small... 3 to 4 people. When you do have to leave your home, stay 6-feet away from others, as that is the hypothesized distance the droplets can travel. If you see someone coughing, we recommend you leave the area immediately. Wash your hands regularly with soap and water. Clean high-surface areas in your home.

Refrain from touching your face. New research indicates that COVID-19 is being spread from prolonged contact followed by touching your face. There is an excellent video from Dr. David Price on our page: www.ponderamedical.org/covid-19 that explains the importance of refraining from touching your face. Steps for your safety include:

· Always know where your hands are

· Carry hand sanitizer with you

· Don’t touch your face

· Wear a mask. This does not need to be a medical mask. It will help to prevent you from touching your face

This is an unchartered time in healthcare and all society. Here are some helpful tips and words of encouragement from Edie Ellsworth, Family Nurse Practitioner at the PMC Rural Health Clinic. “COVID-19 pandemic is creating more than just physical mayhem. For most people, anxiety has become part of everyday life in this current situation. We are in an unprecedented time and the precautions put in place have us wondering what to do if we can’t see anyone, what will we do? Or maybe you have been laid off, or not working because school is out and there is no childcare available. These are all anxiety producing life experiences. Worry about your health and loved ones health is also anxiety producing. What to do? A very good way to help you cope is meditation or mindfulness practice. There are many apps out there to help you reduce stress. Here is a list: Headspace, Calm, Breath2Relax, Happify. If you look on the internet there are some companies offering this service for free. Also some good articles with helpful hints are on the internet. adaa.org/finding-help-coronavirus-anxiety-helpful-resources, WWW.cdc.gov>2019ncov>prepare>maning-stress-anxiety, www.nimh.gov>coronavirus-anxiety-helpfulresources.

A few things that might help: reach out to friends and family via phone, text messaging, video chat on a regular basis. Don’t watch news all night and day or read about the coronavirus all day. Reflect on things within your control and work with that. It might be time to brush off old hobbies. Exercise is important, outside if possible. Self-care is extremely important right now. See your provider if you feel as though you need more than what you are doing. We’re all in this together. Let’s help one another out and let others help us out. “

We want to commend our staff for their dedication and hard work during these very busy and challenging times. The commitment of our team to our patients, residents and community is the glowing positive in this time of uncertainty and we are grateful to all. We would also like to thank our community for your efforts and cooperation. Our own Pondera County Health Department has been working non-stop to keep our community safe and we continue to work closely together proactively, to stay ahead of the curve. Collectively, we are giving this our very best effort to control the situation, provide updates, keep our facility, patients and staff, and entire community safe!

We would also like to thank every individual and organization who has made donations to the Health Department, PMC or other entities in the midst of this public health emergency. We have received nearly 2,000 masks from local hutterite colonies and expect more this week. These are being handed out to community members for free at IGA, Java Hut, Folklore, Branding Iron and Coaches Corner as well as the PMC Clinic and the Pondera County Health Department. The CDC is now recommending the use of masks in all communities. The Pondera County Health Department has developed an infographic on proper use of cloth masks; and that graphic is also available on the PMC website. Other donations have included masks from local farmers and organizations, pallets, gowns, caps, art and cards of encouragement to our Long Term Care facility for our residents. We have been surrounded by generosity, and there is truly no way to express just how grateful we are.

Lastly, we would like to direct you to our COVID-19 webpage on our PMC website. This webpage will give twice daily updates on the situation in Pondera County and Montana. We’ve put helpful resources and topics; and words from our own medical professionals. Our goal is to help you stay well during this time. We are here for you, because we are you.

Thank you so sincerely for your cooperation. We are privileged to live in this community; and we will do our best for all of you.


Proudly serving the people of Pondera county, alongside the people of Pondera county, because we are the people of Pondera county.

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 ©2018 Pondera Medical Center • 805 Sunset Blvd • Conrad, MT 59425 • (406) 271-3211  •  caseyr@ponderamedical.org