Safety

Air Quality + COVID-19. What Does This Combo Mean for Our Lung Health?

Posted on Aug 20, 2020 in California Pacific Medical Center, Safety, Scroll Images, Wellness

SAN FRANCISCO – Wildfires burning across Northern California coupled with extreme heat and dryness has the air quality in the unhealthy range. All of this is sparking concerns for people with respiratory issues, especially those with COVID-19. Dr. Vinayak Jha, a pulmonologist affiliated with Sutter’s California Pacific Medical Center, says the best way to protect ourselves from the virus and poor air quality is to stay indoors and wear a mask or face covering when outside.

Jha says elderly people, children and individuals with respiratory illnesses are particularly susceptible to elevated air pollution levels. With smoky air blanketing much of the Bay Area and the Sacramento and Central Valley regions, these at-risk populations should take extra precautions to avoid exposure.

Know before you go: View a list of Sutter Health facilities temporarily closed due to the effects of wildfires in Northern California.

Signs Wildfire Smoke May Be Affecting You

Breathing in wildfire smoke can have both immediate and long-term health impacts. In the short term, wildfire smoke can irritate the eyes and airways, causing coughing, a dry scratchy throat and irritated sinuses. Elevated particulate matter in the air can also trigger wheezing in those who suffer from asthma, emphysema or COPD (Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).

Contact your provider if you experience any of the following symptoms:
• Repeated coughing
• Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
• Wheezing
• Chest tightness or pain
• Palpitations
• Nausea or unusual fatigue
• Lightheadedness

What happens when a virulent virus is added to the mix? In a recent article by the San Francisco Chronicle, Jha explains that people are already concerned about catching the COVID-19 virus and becoming ill. And the situation becomes more complicated when smoke from wildfires is combined with the unusually high temperatures we’ve experienced in Northern California. This trifecta is not ideal for those with respiratory conditions.

Jha says the early science is revealing. “There are growing reports out of China, Europe and the U.S. that the more air pollution there is, the more COVID deaths and cases there are. There’s some reason for concern that wildfire smoke, besides being bad for people in general, may affect people’s susceptibility to getting the virus, too.”

Recovering from COVID-19? Living with a respiratory illness? Here’s what you should do if wildfire smoke becomes a problem.

As this fire seasons heats up, Jha recommends COVID-19 patients keep in close contact with their health care providers and avoid exerting themselves, especially if they are at the beginning of the illness.

“Continue to socially distance, and continue to wear a mask in public,” says Jha. He encourages people to check the Air Quality Index (here), check their own home air purifying system to make sure the filters are clean, and have a plan in case you need to leave the area.

Pulmonary Care

In the Sutter Health network, pulmonary specialists have deep expertise in treating acute and chronic lung conditions, including asthma, bronchiolitis, emphysema and pneumonia. They offer treatment for interstitial lung disease, advanced COPD, pulmonary nodules and pulmonary hypertension.

In light of COVID-19, Sutter Bay Medical Foundation stood up respiratory care clinics (RCCs) to prepare for increased patient demand. These exam experiences keep potentially contagious people distanced from those that aren’t, while allowing all who need in-person care to receive it.

Read more about Sutter’s respiratory care clinics here.

Sutter Health is committed to your health and safety. If you need care, make an appointment today. Our care teams are ready to serve you, either in person or by Video Visit.

Learn more about getting care during COVID-19 here.

A Message from Sarah Krevans on the Northern California Wildfires

Posted on Aug 19, 2020 in Carousel, People, Quality, Safety, Scroll Images

Wildfires are again burning in multiple Northern California counties. Sadly, it’s an all too familiar occurrence for many of the communities Sutter Health is privileged to serve.

Sarah Krevans, President & CEO,
Sutter Health

I want to thank the thousands of firefighters and additional emergency personnel who are responding to these blazes—especially the physicians, nurses and staff across Sutter’s integrated network. Our teams have been on the front lines caring for patients since the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and now they are simultaneously helping support their communities during these fires.

We are closely monitoring the progress of the fires, as well as the resulting poor air quality, and their impact on our care sites. As always, the safety of our patients and staff is our top priority. We will work to keep our communities informed during this evolving situation.

Sutter is also committed to supporting our staff who may have been evacuated or otherwise impacted by the wildfires. We are checking in with our team members and activating employee resources like emergency financial assistance.

As we have done throughout the ongoing pandemic and in past wildfires, we will use the breadth of our integrated network to move resources around our care sites to where they are needed most to help our communities and patients in Northern California.

Caring for a Newborn in a Pandemic

Posted on Aug 17, 2020 in Carousel, Palo Alto Medical Foundation, Pediatric Care, Quality, Safety, Scroll Images, Uncategorized, Women's Services

This article was written by Anita Mantha, M.D., pediatrician with the Palo Alto Medical Foundation for the August 2020 issue of Bay Area Parent magazine. 

Raising a newborn has never been easy. Nighttime feedings, coping with your own body’s recovery and the constant worry that comes with keeping your little bundle of joy safe are all part of being a new parent. In the midst of a pandemic, that job may be even more challenging. In the era of COVID-19, how do we keep our newborn baby safe, while enjoying the beautiful journey ahead?

If a mother is suspected or known to have COVID-19, how do doctors care for the newborn?

This is an evolving topic, as we learn more about this virus. Many hospitals are currently testing pregnant women around the time of their delivery for COVID-19. You can check with your obstetrician and the hospital team to find out if and when this test is being done if you have questions.

If you do test positive, do not panic. Hospitals have policies and procedures in place to help keep you and medical staff protected. While your care team may look a bit different than you imagined – gowns, face shields, masks and gloves – they will still work hard to support you during your delivery.

Once your baby is born, your care team will likely recommend that you wear a mask and practice good hand hygiene. Your baby may also be tested. Your care team will likely discuss additional precautions around topics such as physical distancing and feeding. Please remember not to put face coverings on children less than 2 years of age.

Can I still breastfeed my baby if I have COVID-19?

The benefits of breast-feeding have been long documented. One of the benefits is that breastmilk has antibodies that help protect the body against bacteria and viruses, potentially making it all the more important to breast feed your newborn now. In limited studies, COVID-19 has not been detected in breast milk. However, we do not know for sure whether mothers with COVID-19 can spread the virus via breast milk. 

What we do know is that it’s important to practice good hand and breast hygiene while pumping. Also, consider having a caregiver in good health offer bottles of your milk. If you have tested positive for COVID-19, you and your care team can discuss when and how to nurse your baby directly. 

What are the symptoms of COVID-19 in a newborn?

Newborns can have a wide range of symptoms including fever (defined as a temperature greater than 100.4F), poor feeding, being very tired, coughing, congestion, runny nose and/or breathing difficulties. The tricky part about newborns is that these symptoms can be caused by a variety of things, so it is important to discuss any concerns with your care team. The good news is that most children (including newborns born on time) with COVID-19 are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms. Prior to going home with your newborn, consider having a thermometer at home and being comfortable taking a rectal temperature, which is the most accurate temperature reading in newborns. Having your physician’s advice line number on hand is also important in case questions arise.

Can I let family members visit the baby? How do I keep my newborn safe from COVID-19?

Aside from COVID-19, we recommend caution, especially in the first month of life, to prevent your baby from catching an infection. Your newborn has an immature immune system and is at risk for serious bacterial infections. For these reasons, a fever is considered an emergency, and you should seek care for your child right away if it happens.

Now, more than ever, try to limit visitors in the first month of life. Anyone who visits should practice careful hand hygiene, practice physical distancing and wear a mask as much as possible. Please remember, even in the midst of a pandemic, normal newborn concerns still exist: jaundice, weight checks, etc. Please keep all regularly scheduled newborn care appointments and inform your care team if you or your baby are symptomatic prior to these visits so they can determine next steps.

I know moms can go through “baby blues.” Won’t physical distancing only make this feeling of isolation worse?

With all that is going on, it is natural for new mothers to feel as if they are on an emotional roller coaster. The important thing is, even though you may need to physically distance yourself to keep your newborn safe, you do not need to emotionally distance. Make sure to connect virtually with friends and family as much as possible. Connecting with other parent friends via video or phone calls can be helpful as well. La Leche League (llli.org) also provides great support to new parents.

What can I do to help my postpartum worries?

Make sure to take time for yourself and try to maintain a bit of a routine to help feel more balanced. Try to avoid frequently checking the news or social media, as this can lead to more stress. Consider some time for meditation, spending time outdoors or anything else you find enjoyable. Postpartum blues can turn into something more serious such as postpartum depression or anxiety, so please seek help if you are feeling that your mood is making it difficult to function. There are many resources to help, so do not wait to reach out. As things are constantly changing, please check with your healthcare team for updates on the care of newborns in this challenging time. The CDC also offers helpful information here.

How To Keep Your Kids Safer in the Water

Posted on Aug 10, 2020 in Affiliates, Eden Medical Center, Safety, Scroll Images, Sutter Delta Medical Center, Sutter East Bay Medical Foundation

As parents scramble to find ways to keep their kids active during the pandemic, water safety is even more important

ANTIOCH, Calif. –When the weather’s hot, it’s natural for kids to be drawn to water — a pool, lake, river or ocean. Water is sparkly and refreshing, a place to have fun.

But now more than ever, experts are warning parents and families to be sure to take the right safety precautions around water.

Late summer and early fall raise special concerns in the Bay Area—especially in the inland areas like the Delta and the Tri-Valley, where warm weather is typical as late as October. Because of the pandemic, community centers that once offered supervised swimming pools may be closed. And schools are again providing instruction remotely, so kids are spending more time at home and possibly more time around a swimming pool or taking end-of-summer-vacation trips to rivers, lakes and other natural bodies of water. Add to this that many parents are working from home and may be distracted, and the potential for danger increases.

“Many people think about pools as fun and not necessarily as a hazard, but I always ask parents what steps have you taken to keep your child safe around the pool,’’ said Geri Landman, M.D., a pediatrician based in Berkeley with Sutter East Bay Medical Foundation (SEBMF), part of the Sutter Health integrated network of care.

Drowning is the leading cause of injury-related death for children 1 to 4 years of age, and at least one in five drownings are children ages 14 and younger, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

William Francis, M.D., an emergency room doctor at Sutter Delta Medical Center in Antioch, said he has treated several children for water-related injuries since the pandemic started.

“There’s an explosion of above-ground pools and spas, and part of that is because people start to look at what they can do around their house and there’s a rush to install equipment,” Dr. Francis said. “We have to remember that when a pool is installed – either above ground or in the ground – children need to be supervised 100 percent around water.”

Pediatricians with SEBMF say they counsel parents on safety measures and may also remind them that accidents around pools, even drowning, are a reality.

“Counseling is important during well-child visits and it’s important to remind parents it doesn’t take much for a child to for a child to drown,” said Susan Adham, M.D., an SEBMF pediatrician based in Antioch. “If necessary we remind parents that this continues to happen in our communities. Kids can get into trouble so quickly.”

To help kids stay safer in the water, clinicians at Sutter Health recommend:

  • When young children are in or around water, an adult should be supervising at all times. If adults are in a group, appoint a “water watcher’’ who will pay close attention to the children, and avoid distractions like talking on a cell phone or drinking alcohol.
  • Pam Stoker, a trauma injury prevention specialist at Sutter’s Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley, encourages parents to follow a protocol for active supervision that includes:

    Attention – focusing on your child and nothing else because anything that takes your attention away increases your child’s injury risk.

    Continuity – constantly watching your child. For example, don’t leave your child by the pool to go inside and get a towel.

    Closeness – stay close enough to actually touch your child. If you are out of arm’s reach of your child, your ability to prevent injury goes down significantly. While it is impossible to actively supervise your child 24 hours a day, it is important to do so during activities that are high risk to your child’s safety.
  • Pools should be fenced on all sides with a 4-foot fence that kids cannot climb. The fence should have a gate with a lock that kids can’t reach.
  • When using inflatable or portable pools, remember to empty them immediately after use. Store upside down and out of children’s reach.
    Consider installing a door alarm, a window alarm or both to alert you if a child wanders into the pool area unsupervised.
  • Don’t rely on water wings or noodles as flotation devices. They are fun toys but no substitute for a Coast Guard-approved life jacket. A life jacket is particularly important in natural bodies of water that may be murky because the bright color stands out and is an effective way to locate children.
  • Teach children to swim. They can start swimming lessons as young as 1 year.
  • Learn CPR. Check for resources on first aid training at a local fire department, American Red Cross or American Heart Association.

Wildfire Smoke and COVID-19: What to Know and How to Prepare

Posted on Aug 2, 2020 in California Pacific Medical Center, Safety, Scroll Images, Wellness

SAN FRANCISCO – For people who experienced breathing and respiratory problems brought on by previous years’ wildfire smoke, a San Francisco health expert cautions that these individuals should be extra vigilant with their health while COVID-19 is among us.

In an article by the San Francisco Chronicle, Vinayak Jha, M.D., a pulmonologist affiliated with Sutter’s California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC), says that people are already concerned about catching the virus and becoming ill. Having respiratory problems combined with air pollution from wildfires is not an ideal situation.

“There are growing reports out of China, Europe and the U.S. that the more air pollution there is, the more COVID deaths and cases there are,” says Jha. “There’s some reason for concern that wildfire smoke, besides being bad for people in general, may affect people’s susceptibility to getting the virus.”

Jha says breathing in wildfire smoke can cause shortness of breath, coughing and sore throat, and that having the coronavirus may worsen symptoms.

Recovering from COVID-19? Living with a respiratory illness? Here’s what you should do if wildfire smoke becomes a problem.

As the fire seasons heats up, Jha says COVID-19 patients should keep in close contact with their health care provider and avoid exerting themselves, especially if they are at the beginning of the illness.

“Continue to socially distance, and continue to wear a mask in public,” says Jha. He encourages people to have precautions in place now, before the wildfire season hits: know how to check the Air Quality Index, check your own home air purifying system to make sure the filters are clean, and have a plan in case you need to leave the area.

Pulmonary Care

In the Sutter Health network, pulmonary specialists have deep expertise in treating acute and chronic lung conditions, including asthma, bronchiolitis, emphysema and pneumonia. They offer treatment for interstitial lung disease, advanced COPD (Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), pulmonary nodules and pulmonary hypertension.

In light of COVID-19, Sutter Bay Medical Foundation stood up respiratory care clinics (RCCs) to prepare for increased patient demand. These exam experiences keep potentially contagious people distanced from those that aren’t, while allowing all who need in-person care to receive it.

Read more about Sutter’s respiratory care clinics here.

Sutter Health is committed to your health and safety. If you need care, make an appointment today. Our care teams are ready to serve you, either in person or by Video Visit.

Learn more about getting care during COVID-19 here.

How a Rural Hospital Treated a COVID-19 Patient 120 Miles Away

Posted on Jul 2, 2020 in Expanding Access, Innovation, Memorial Hospital, Los Banos, Quality, Safety, Scroll Images, Uncategorized

When Sutter Health’s Memorial Hospital Los Banos had a critically ill patient test positive for COVID-19, there wasn’t an ICU room for her. The small community hospital’s four ICU beds are located in the same large room separated by curtains, and this patient needed to be isolated.

A private room was made available, but there was a problem: It was not equipped with the Sutter eICU telehealth system that allows 24/7 critical-care physician coverage from a central hub 120 miles north in Sacramento. But, as part of its preparations for a COVID-19 patient surge, Sutter Health had just deployed a new system that allowed its eICUs to more than double its capabilities. The patient in Los Banos was the first to be cared for using the new system.

Sutter, a national pioneer in electronic ICU (eICU), has for years ensured critically ill patients in both large cities and small towns have 24/7 access to an expert team of doctors specially trained in their care. From central hubs in Sacramento and San Francisco, these doctors monitor patients in ICUs many miles away using live interactive video and remote diagnostic tools to instantly assess critical changes in a patient’s condition and provide expert critical-care physician support and supervision for the hospitalists, specialists and nurses who provide the hands-on care.

Sutter Health has more than 300 ICU patient rooms at 18 hospitals, each one outfitted with interactive video cameras, but in a matter of a month, Sutter designed and deployed specialized units that enable the eICU’s critical-care physicians to care for upward of 1,000 coronavirus patients without having to travel from hospital to hospital and using in-demand PPE. As part of its COVID-19 surge planning, each hospital set aside other patient rooms that don’t have the eICU video technology installed, and Sutter’s eICU team created and deployed 82 iPad stands across its network to bring these specialized critical care teams to those patients, too. Including the patient in Los Banos.

“The challenge was to come up with a plan for our eICU to provide care for a surge in patients across Northern California,” said Dr. Tom Shaughnessy, medical director of Sutter Health Bay Area eICU. “We are now able to meet the need of a patient surge by giving the same comprehensive, quality care whether a patient is in one of our ICU beds or a converted room.”

With the assistance of the eICU team through the mobile units, the patient in Los Banos recovered from the novel coronavirus. Now rural hospitals throughout the Sutter network are prepared for patients who need to be isolated and still have 24/7 critical-care physician coverage, and Sutter’s larger hospitals are prepared for a future patient surge of any type that requires all-hours critical-care coverage.

“We have nurses and physicians providing some of the best bedside care in the country, and the eICU allows us to come in and provide advanced specialized support as they care for patients,” said Dr. Vanessa Walker, medical director of the Sutter Health Valley Area eICU. “This is critical in the care for those suffering from compromised lung function due to a virus such as COVID-19. Now with these additional mobile units, we are well prepared to meet a surge of patients from this current crisis or any other that may come in the future.”

Vanessa Walker, D.O., cares for a patient through the eICU system in Sacramento