By Barbara High

Tribune Staff Writer

With COVID-19 changing life as we know it, no area has been harder affected than the healthcare industry. Now as American tries to move forward during this pandemic, WVU Medicine and all its hospitals and clinics have adopted the motto of "Recover, Rebuild, and Revitalize."

WVU Medicine, also known as the WVU Health System, includes J.W. Ruby Memorial Hospital and WVU Medicine Children’s in Morgantown, as well as Potomac Valley in Keyser.

Chief medical officer Judie Charlton, M.D., said WVU Medicine is fully capable of safely accommodating patients. "We have adequate safety gear for patients and staff, and it’s time to get back to medical care as it was before COVID-19.

Charlton said WVU Medicine has institutes a lot of safety protocols to make sure it’s safe for the patient as well as the medical staff.

"We are able to test patients to make sure it is safe to operate, and we are doing thorough screening before surgery dates," she said. "We are also giving patients information on how to continue to protect themselves from the virus before any medical procedures."

Charlton said there is plenty of other changes that patients will notice, including fully gowned staff that receive them. They will be taking temperatures and checking vitals to make sure it is safe to proceed with the patient’s procedures.

Yet Charlton said the biggest changes will be what you can’t see, including how rooms are sterilized between patients and cases. Also different will be the protective gear that anesthesiologist and scrub nurses will be wearing. Every precaution is being taken to protect patients and staff alike.

"Right now it is safer to come to the hospital and have surgery than it is to walk through the produce section at some grocery stores," she said.

Charlton added that right now is the time to not be overly afraid, but to focus on keeping yourself healthy.

"COVID-19 is going to be here a month from now, three months from now, and it will be here a year from now," she said.

Charlton said, short of a vaccine showing up in the next few weeks, healthcare professionals are concerned right now that people are putting off other medical problems.

"We are concerned that people put off dealing with other issues like heart disease, cancer and orthopedic problems," she said.

Charton added that patients need to focus on receiving care and treatments to keep themselves healthy.

With all the changes, some things shall remain the same, however, including visitation policies.

WVU Medicine will continue to implement a no-visitor policy at all of its hospitals and outpatient clinics. Limited exceptions will be made for end-of-life cases, pediatrics, and OB patients (women in labor). Those patients will still be limited to one visitor. Visitors who are sick will not be permitted to enter WVU Medicine hospitals under any circumstances.

They are also continuing to offer their video care for patients preferring to be seen that way. All WVU Medicine outpatient clinics offer video visits for established patients in an effort to provide timely follow-up care during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"While we want to continue doing everything in our power to limit the spread of COVID-19, we also want to ensure that our patients are still receiving the medical care they need for their other ongoing medical issues," said Charlton. "These video visits will allow our patients to see their WVU Medicine providers and maintain their plans of care."

Patients physically located within West Virginia or Maryland can video chat with a provider via a smartphone or webcam-equipped computer during regular clinic hours Monday through Friday.  Patients physically located in Pennsylvania, Ohio, or other states at the time of treatment should contact their providers regarding availability of video visits due to licensure regulations.

Established patients interested in scheduling a video visit with their providers should call 855-WVU-CARE or send their providers a direct message through MyWVUChart.

With video appointments, patients can receive an examination, diagnosis, and treatment from a WVU Medicine provider, receive an after-visit summary containing a care plan and any follow-up instructions, including referrals for a specialist visit or diagnostic imaging, and have prescriptions recommended by their video provider sent to the pharmacy of their choice.

Patients will use their MyWVUChart accounts to participate in the visit. In order to complete the video visit by smartphone or tablet, which is the preferred method, the MyChart app must be installed prior to the scheduled appointment, and the patient must have access to a high-speed internet connection or 3G/4G network.

WVU Medicine is working hard to keep patients and staff safe and help everyone to move forward during this pandemic.