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A patient walks into the HRRMC Emergency Room, past cones blocking a handicapped parking area where plans apparently are being made to perform mobile Coronavirus testing in the future.

Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center Marketing and Public Relations Manager Allison Gergley announced Friday that recent tests for the COVID-19, commonly known as the coronavirus and samples collected at HRRMC, were negative.

Gergley said verbal confirmation was received from Chaffee County Public Health and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE).

This apparently refers to the person referred to as “a hospital patient” who was tested at the hospital and the test kit sent to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. It was not clear from the press release whether more than one person was tested.

Independent reports said that the person tested was actually a hospital employee, rather than a patient. Chaffee County Public Health Director Andrea Carlstrom would neither confirm nor deny those reports, saying that information would have to come from the hospital.

Follow-up questions were forwarded Friday, March 13, to HRRMC Marketing and Public Relations Manager Allison Gergley. Here are those questions and responses:

Q: Why did the Hospital say that the suspected person was a hospital patient instead of announcing it was an HRRMC employee?
A: This is because the employee is also a hospital patient, and being a patient means we must protect their identity through HIPAA.

Q: Without revealing the person’s identity, of course, can you confirm or deny this person is a physician?
A: I’m sorry, I cannot comment on this due to HIPAA.

Q: If not a physician, which department of the hospital did the person work in?
A:I also cannot comment on this for the same reason as above.

Q; Depending on the results of the test for COVID, have any other hospital employees been tested or sent home to self-quarantine as a precaution?
A: No other hospital employees have been tested at this time.

Q: What would it mean if the results had come back positive?
A: If the results came back positive, we would immediately open our incident command center, restrict all visitors to the hospital, and set in place our Bioterrorism Readiness and Pandemic Influenza Plan and Mass Influx of Potentially Infectious Patients plans.

Q: How many tests have been conducted at HRRMC?
A: We have conducted three tests, all of which have come back negative.

Q: How many tests is the hospital currently equipped to perform?
A: That is based on the number of our viral test kits, which I cannot give out the number we currently have, but our Lab is doing a great job of keeping track of all test kit numbers on a daily basis, and ordering more consistently.

Q: What are the specific criteria HRRMC is using to determine whether a patient needs to be tested for COVID?
A: We are following the strict criteria of CDC and CDPHE for testing, which do change often, sometimes on a daily basis. But we review this information several times a day to be up-to-date on all of those guidelines.

It should be noted that this information update was current as of Friday, March 13.

The earlier hospital press release stated, “To stay on top of current outbreaks in the state, HRRMC is continuously monitoring the situation. Due to the increased demand for testing and weather, HRRMC will be opening a tent located at the Emergency Department of the hospital and at the Buena Vista Health Center in order to triage patients with respiratory symptoms. These patients will be medically screened, and tested appropriately,” the press release said. Vehicle triaging will continue at all other locations, and any changes needed will be assessed on a daily basis.”

HRRMC has put additional visitor restrictions in place; as of today, the release said, no visitors will be allowed in the inpatient units at the hospital, with the exception of:

  • One symptom-free visitor to the Family Birthing Center, Infusion, and Oncology, who must pass a clinical screening;
  • No visitors allowed to the Emergency Department, with the exception of one symptom-free guardian per minor (under the age of 18);
  • Exceptions made on a case-by-case basis for one symptom-free visitor to the ER, ICU and Medical Surgical units if it is determined to be best for the patient to have a visitor and the visitor must pass a clinical screening before entering the unit.

There are currently no visitor restrictions at the Outpatient Pavilion. These visitor restrictions will be reassessed on a daily basis, the release said.