Hospital employees in Baker City were treated to lunch on Monday as a thank you from the Saint Alphonsus Foundation.

The hospital staff have stepped up to the extra challenge of working through a pandemic, said Priscilla Lynn, CEO at Saint Alphonsus Medical Center-Baker City.

“I’m so proud of them, and the hard work they’ve done,” Lynn said.

All colleagues were invited to partake in lunch served by the MC Taco Bus.

“The main point of this lunch was a way that the Foundation board could say thank you to the colleagues, encourage them and hopefully bring smiles to their faces,” said Jason Yencopal, chair of the Foundation board.

He said the community is also welcome to show their support — something as simple as sending a card.

“If you would like to send a support card I know the colleagues would love it,” he said.

Each year, the Saint Alphonsus Foundation raises between $30,000 and $35,000 at the Festival of Trees. That money supports the Baker City hospital with improvements, new equipment, and support to the staff.

This year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Festival has been canceled.

“The board decided early on from the uncertainty and the financial strain that we would not host the festival this year,” Yencopal said. “I know we will miss putting it on and many people will miss attending it as it kicks off the Christmas season, at least for me.”

Last year’s Festival funds purchased a device to assist dermatological procedures. Other projects over the years included the emergency department remodel in 2018, various surgery equipment, a new ultrasound for the Birth Center, and a new helipad for safer transport of patients and safety of colleagues.

This year, because the Festival isn’t happening, a link to donate has been set up for the Baker City COVID-19 Relief Fund at https://donate.saintalphonsus.org/Baker.

All donations benefit the Baker City hospital.

COVID-19 challenges

Challenges at the hospital continue in the midst of the pandemic.

But this has led to creative solutions, Lynn said.

For instance, visitors are restricted, yet family members still need vital information.

“Nurses and physicians are coming up with new ways to educate caregivers,” Lynn said.

The drive-up clinic is another example. A respiratory evaluation service has been in place for months, providing an easy way for the community to have their symptoms assessed and receive a COVID-19 test if necessary. Hours are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

The clinic is on the east side of the hospital, near the emergency room entrance off Midway Drive.

Several types of tests are available, including a rapid test that gives quick results for people who have symptoms consistent with COVID-19.

Lynn said the number of tests has increased in the last few weeks.

Most of those seeking tests have symptoms, or were identified as having been exposed during contact tracing.

In addition to the drive-up clinic, Lynn said all pre-surgical patients are tested for COVID-19.

Saint Alphonsus also offers a drive-up flu clinic, in the same location as the respiratory evaluation.

Those seeking a flu shot are asked to stay in their car, wear a mask, and bring an insurance card.

Flu clinic hours are the same as for the respiratory clinic.

Lynn said the medical community is worried about COVID-19 circulating at the same time as seasonal influenza — especially if someone with COVID-19 is exposed to the flu.

Flu shots will be available through March, but Lynn encourages everyone to get a shot sooner rather than later.

Although operations have shifted a bit inside the hospital, Lynn emphasizes that people should not hesitate to seek medical help.

“Don’t delay care. We’re still here,” she said. “We do have safety protocols, extra cleaning, and we’re following the CDC recommendations.”

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