May 2020 The residents of Boone County already know of Witham Health Services extraordinary menu of patient services, advanced treatment options, leading-edge technology and compassionate care delivered by its exceptional medical professionals. What some may not know is that Witham Health Services was ahead of the pack at the beginning of the pandemic surge and was the first in its industry\u2014in Indiana\u2014to offer free COVID-19 drive-through screenings. We spoke with Dr. Raymond Ingham, president\/CEO at Witham Health Services, to learn more about what Witham\u2019s team of extraordinary physicians, nurses and staff did to push through the early stages of the pandemic and how it has methodically begun reopening its services in accordance with Gov. Holcomb\u2019s recommendations for reopening the state. Staging Amidst a Pandemic \u201cWhen we saw it on the horizon, our first worry was trying to identify as many as we could,\u201d Dr. Ingham shared. \u201cAt the same time, we were closing our physician\u2019s offices, we closed our sports medicine program and we closed our surgical procedures. So, I had this group of folks that wouldn't be getting the hours that they needed, and it made a lot of sense to me to open up the screening areas and train on how to do it efficiently.\u201d The drive-through COVID-19 screening areas were set up in the ambulance bays at Witham\u2019s Lebanon and Anson locations to avoid overwhelming the respective ERs. In his words, the success of the screening staging was a result of \u201ca little bit of brilliance and a whole lot of luck.\u201d When asked how many people tested positive\u2014from day one of the screenings to the time of this article\u2019s publication\u2014Dr. Ingham reported, \u201cWe have over 600 test positive. And that\u2019s about 20% of the total number of screenings.\u201d Witham\u2019s Status on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) At the time of publication, Dr. Ingham shared that Witham Health Services has approximately 96 hours\u2014on average\u2014of PPE. \u201cThat\u2019s across the board,\u201d Dr. Ingham added. \u201cWe are very low on isolation gowns\u2014we\u2019ve got 300 of those, and we go through about 300 a day. It\u2019s not only the supply that is an issue, the material that is used is gone. So, even if there was a workforce to put together, the material is not available. But we have done some pretty innovative things and have gone to nondisposable surgical gowns. We have a team that works on those every day to find out who has them\/who doesn\u2019t and how can we get them. The only downside to that is, of course, with supply and demand, the costs have gone through the roof.\u201d A testament to the level of caring and compassion exhibited by Boone County residents, businesses and other medical professionals, Dr. Ingham shared that as many as 500 cloth masks have been donated to Witham Health Services. \u201cJust about when I get to my wit\u2019s end, the good Lord finds something for me,\u201d Dr. Ingham expressed. \u201cWe were kind of struggling with opening some of our services because we want everybody to be masked. And if they don\u2019t have a mask, we want to provide one.\u201d Rubbing Dirt on It Isn\u2019t the Answer\u2014Call Your Doctor There have been countless reports of people avoiding going to the ER for legitimate emergencies, and Dr. Ingham went on record as saying, \u201cFirst and foremost, if you need to go the hospital\u2014go to the hospital. We cut back services but not in our emergency rooms and not in our inpatient units. We HAVE moved things around to better protect patients and staff. I would definitely encourage people to go to the hospital or to your doctor if you need to. Now, if you have respiratory symptoms, we ask that you call the doctor first so we can screen you over the phone.\u201d Handling the Reopening of Services Throughout the entire \u201clockdown,\u201d Witham Health Services did not furlough any of its employees. \u201cWe redeployed them and were able to keep our whole staff,\u201d Dr. Ingham said. \u201cThat has been extremely important to me. Now, we begin to reopen, it\u2019s been a matter of redeploying them back to their home departments. Our physicians have been seeing urgent or patients that they felt they needed to see and have been doing virtual visits for other patients. I\u2019ve even had some docs do traveling visits as well as nurses who went out to patients\u2019 homes.\u201d Dr. Ingham continued, \u201cAs we\u2019ve reopened, we\u2019ve been working to keep the practices clean. We\u2019re seeing the elderly and at-risk patients either first or at the end of the day. Again, we\u2019re asking that all respiratory patients call first so we can practice social distancing. We don\u2019t want them in the waiting room. We want them to walk in and right into an exam room. We are limited the number of patients we see a day and playing with all these different things, trying to work through all these things so that we keep everyone\u2014patients, physicians and staff\u2014protected. We are open, and we are here for those who need us.\u201d Do Not Underestimate COVID-19 Dr. Ingham emphasized that as the medical community continues to learn about the nuances of COVID-19, along with us lay people, he felt it was important to note that the virus is not to be underestimated\u2014by anyone. \u201cWhat makes so dangerous is not the fact that you got the virus,\u201d Dr. Ingham expressed. \u201cIt\u2019s the fact that the virus looks for your Achilles\u2019 heel and attacks it. So, if you\u2019re a diabetic, the virus will go after your diabetes. If you have heart issues, it\u2019s going to go after your heart. I recently lost one of my best friends who had stomach issues, and it went right for his gut. It is an insidious nemesis.\u201d For more information on Witham Health Services and a complete list of available health and community services, visit witham.org.