Fairbanks Memorial Hospital makes changes to COVID-19 protocols

FMH has implemented new Covid Protocols as the numbers of positive cases has begun to fluctuate.
Published: Oct. 11, 2022 at 4:58 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - As Fairbanks Memorial Hospital (FMH) continues to adapt to the fluctuating number of COVID-19 patients, they are making adjustments to their COVID protocols. “We are changing as COVID changes, and as we enter into a new phase we are adapting our protocols,” said Angelique Ramirez, Chief Medical Officer for Foundation Health Partners.

As of October 3, 2022, FMH has eliminated masking in non-public areas, meaning masking is now optional in meeting areas and break rooms. Ramirez said this is a way for healthcare staff to have a chance to be “free” of masking in those closed setting areas. She also noted they are taking this approach in part from the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as the trends in the Fairbanks community.

“We are still requiring masking in all patient care areas and in all public areas of the hospital, and we will be evaluating that in the next month or two,” Ramirez added.

Even though their policy has changed, FMH is still recommending that patients and visitors wear masks at all times in all patient care areas and in all public areas of the hospital. “In pandemics of flu in the past, we have had to put into place mitigating practices such as masking. So it will depend on what happens with COVID in the future,” Ramirez said. “We don’t know when that will be. It’s not gone, and it’s not going away unfortunately. It is clearly in a different phase.”

There will also be changes to how they screen patients and visitors that come into the hospital. During the pandemic, there were screeners at entrances who would ask questions and evaluate those coming through the doors. Now, they still screen patients but not extensively.

“If any of our clinicians suspect a patient has COVID, or if a patient actually has COVID... we are still seeing COVID-positive patients,” Ramirez said. She also noted that they are still using personal protective equipment, but not for every single patient.

She said the reason they are recommending the public still wear a mask is due to keep those in the hospital who may be vulnerable protected. “We still have a high rate of transmission of COVID in our community,” Ramirez said.

COVID-19 numbers still remain high, but Ramirez said there has been a big drop in patients coming in with COVID over the last month. She said this is very good news.

“The CDC follows two different maps for COVID,” Ramirez explained, one being the community level. “Fairbanks is considered low. Meaning that our infrastructure is intact. Our hospital capacity is intact. So when you are out in the community, any individual can make an individual decision based on their individual risk as to whether or not they chose to wear a mask.

Ramirez also added that healthcare facilities such as FMH take care of a vulnerable population, so their decision is based on how much COVID is being transmitted in the community. Fairbanks is still considered to be in the “Substantial Category.” “We still have a lot of COVID in our community even though our infrastructure is intact. We so want to protect all the patients that come to us for care,” she said.

Ramirez also took the time to talk about a new booster that is matched to the COVID strain that is currently circulating. That booster is called Bivalent (more info HERE).

“A lot of people now have gotten used to the fact that we have vaccines and boosters and nothing’s changed. This one now is different and we really want everyone to take the time to look into it,” Ramirez said.

More information on policy changes at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital can be found on their website at https://www.foundationhealth.org/. There is a link to the updated COVID-19 protocols at the top of the page, or here at https://www.foundationhealth.org/covid19