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CORONAVIRUS: FWB, Niceville hospitals move to new mask protocol

Gannett Florida staff reports
The Destin Log

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Fort Walton Beach Medical Center (FWBMC) and Twin Cities Hospital (TCH) announced Wednesday evening that all staff and providers in all patient care areas will now wear masks, expanding their use beyond suspected or positive COVID cases.

Masks will be optional only for staff in non-patient care areas who can consistently maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet aside from brief interactions with colleagues.

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“Our top priority is protecting our patients, clinicians, nurses, and colleagues so we can best serve our communities through the duration of this pandemic,” said Mitch Mongell, CEO of FWBMC in a press release.

“These new guidelines apply to all areas of our patient care facilities, not just those where suspected COVID or COVID-positive patients are being treated. We are taking this step now because of evidence we see that, while social distancing is a key strategy for interrupting the spread of coronavirus, it is difficult to maintain in the busy patient care environment.

Also, HCA Healthcare’s latest analysis of our ability to meet the demand for additional use of masks gives us confidence that our colleagues in supply chain are prepared to address our needs. Even though HCA Healthcare currently has adequate supplies of personal protective equipment, we will continue to take steps to conserve (personal protective equipment) PPE, including reuse and reprocessing of PPE where appropriate.”

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The Daily News has heard from several staff members in recent days who were concerned that the hospital was not allowing them to wear masks while dealing with a wide variety of patients. Those concerns also were reportedly presented to the hospital administration.

In response to questions posed some days before the Wednesday announcement of universal masking at FWBMC and Twin Cities Hospital, hospital officials said they were following federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention protocols for masking.

According to Wednesday’s release, Fort Walton Beach Medical Center and Twin Cities Hospital has outlined guidance for the usage of three types of masks, depending on the clinical role, the type of care the patient is receiving, and the level of suspicion for infection with COVID.

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*Level I “procedure” masks for all staff not needing higher levels of protection. These masks can also be used for caring for suspected or confirmed COVID patients when paired with a full face shield.

*Level 3 masks for additional protection from fluids and droplets, and for use by staff caring directly for suspected COVID or COVID positive patients, except when performing aerosolized procedures.

*N-95 respirators for staff caring for suspected COVID or COVID positive patients, and are the only mask that should be used during aerosolizing procedures, such as intubation, nebulization, bronchoscopy, or suctioning.

HCA Healthcare’s supply chain has continually worked with epidemiologists and data scientists to track usage and anticipated demand so we can allocate our supplies appropriately, even as these professionals work around the clock to safeguard existing supplies and secure additional shipments, the release said.

Fort Walton Beach Medical Center and Twin Cities Hospital also appointed a PPE czar to manage supplies to prepare for potential surge needs.