Teamwork At Its Best: JCHD Cardiopulmonary Outpatient Adapts to Meet COVID Surge

In September the Delta variant of COVID hit the Texas county of Jackson hard. The virus swept through the school districts resulting in it being passed from students to parents and grandparents, and from teachers to their spouses. The cases overwhelmed the hospital system and post care treatment providers. Referrals to the outpatient cardiopulmonary program came pouring in.

Nicole Priesmeyer, Program Director of the Heritage Program for Seniors and the Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation Program, shares their success story.

“Traditionally my program runs an average of 569 billable units a month and I operate that with one full time Respiratory Therapist (RT) and two PRN RTs working the equivalent of a part time position between them. The influx of referrals created a waiting list (which is not typical) of 14 patients (age 23-90) 12 of whom were post COVID. To meet this demand we needed to hire additional RTs immediately. I received the green light from my Operations VP and in less than two weeks, the Employee Engagement team hired three RTs —which was no easy task.

Additionally we decided to open our clinic on Saturdays; these patients could not wait 3-4 weeks for others to graduate from the program. We also had to keep getting our Cardiac referrals in as fast as we could, to keep the trust of the Cardiologist we serve.

We ran 1,224 billable units in October versus our average of 569 billable units and admitted 11 patients compared to our average of four. As of December 1, we are still operating from a waiting list and seeing patients six days a week. The last two weeks of November we have had fewer new referrals. With our current census, we anticipate that by February the majority of our post COVID rehab patients will have graduated and the high number of patients requiring treatment at the same time should return to a more “normal” flow.

I am so proud of my team, the support staff and the hospital business office personnel who processed insurance authorizations as quickly as they could. The amount of paperwork and teamwork it has taken to get orders signed, medical records sent over, PFTs scheduled, admission assessments done and still continue to process new referrals to add to the waiting list, is something we have never had to tackle at this volume before. But, we did it!”

Back left: Nicole Priesmeyer, Lee Staats, Krista Salles
Front left: Jeanine Jones, Judy Salazar, Rosemary Rios, Susana Mireles