Health care workers have been working on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic.


And like other medical facilities across the country, local hospitals have implemented measures to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus while still treating patients.


"Fortunately, we had lots of time to plan," said Paula Ellis, chief executive officer of Saint John Hospital.


She said hospital leaders had time to educate the staff and provide them access to the personal protective equipment they needed.


"Fortunately, we have never been short on PPE," Ellis said.


Ellis and Saint John’s Nursing Director Leah Huss Monroe said the hospital received a lot of support from the Leavenworth County Health Department.


"We can’t thank them enough for the support and guidance they have provided us," Monroe said.


The hospital also received community support from people who provided homemade masks. The cloth masks were not used by the medical staff but were provided to people coming into the hospital.


Monroe said many businesses also have provided food for hospital staff during the pandemic. People in the community also have put up signs for encouragement.


Like other hospitals, Saint John Hospital has seen a decline in patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.


She said elective procedures such as outpatient surgical procedures were postponed on purpose.


"We did not want people coming into the hospital unless they absolutely needed to be here," Ellis said.


She visits to the emergency department also dropped as people were being cautious about the risk of contracting the virus.


Monroe said elective surgical procedures have resumed at the hospital. She said there is a rigid process in place to provide protection against the spread of the virus.


According to a news release from the hospital, patients are screened and tested for COVID-19 before any surgery. And steps are taken to make certain COVID-19 patients are isolated from non-COVID-19 patients.


Ellis said she still wants to err on the side of caution.


She said a no visitor policy is in place at the hospital. She said an exception could be made for an end of life situation, but Saint John Hospital has not had to cross that bridge.


Even with the resumption of elective procedures, Ellis said patient volumes are still not back to normal.


"They’re certainly much better," she said.


In March, a COVID-19 case was reported at Saint John Hospital’s Senior Behavioral Health Department.


Ellis said a task force gathered as soon as the case was discovered. She believes the response was excellent.


At Saint Luke’s Cushing Hospital, COVID-19 testing is being conducted on all patients as they are admitted to the hospital. This is something that was initiated throughout the Saint Luke’s Health System, according to Laurel Gifford, senior director of media relations.


According to Gifford, enhanced protocols and restrictions have been instituted at Cushing including universal masking, screenings and temperature checks for all staff and patients, isolating COVID-19 patients and suspected COVID-19 patients, and a no visitor policy.


At the Eisenhower VA Medical Center in Leavenworth, people are screened as they come to the campus. This includes staff, according to hospital spokeswoman Stacey Askew.


And the use of telemedicine services is being encouraged for non-emergency care.


"We are working through the new challenges that COVID-19 has presented us while meeting the needs of our veterans," Askew said in an email.


Twitter: @LVTNewsJohnR