Coronavirus: Merced hospital offering virtual visits for possible patients and families

MERCED, Calif. (KFSN) -- Staff members at Mercy Medical Center in Merced provided an update Tuesday on their efforts to protect patients and staff from COVID-19.

They say social distancing and stay at home orders are helping to prevent a surge of patients from coming in all at once.

Dr. Charles Hoffman says, "That has helped us. It's given us breathing room, if you will, time to prepare, and that's what flattening the curve was all about."

The hospital says emergency room tents that are set up outside are working well to identify, isolate, and treat patients who could potentially have the virus.

Officials also say they have an adequate amount of personal protective gear for employees, and they expect more is coming.

They've put restrictions on visitors coming into the hospital, but they're using other methods to help families stay connected.

Chief Nursing Officer Janet Ruscoe explains, "We do have iPads, and we're getting more so that we can help support virtual visits and families. We also have chaplains that are visiting patients, and then they place phone calls to families afterward doing everything we can, recognizing that that separation is very difficult to deal with, especially when a loved one is ill."

Staff members are still urging residents to continue staying home as much as possible. The hospital is offering free virtual visits for anyone who has mild to moderate symptoms they suspect could be from the coronavirus.

To use the service visit dignityhealth.org/virtualcareanywhere and download the app or call 855-356-8053.

The service normally has a fee of $35 per visit, but it will be waived for any patient who thinks they may be experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. Just use the coupon code: COVID19.

For more news coverage on the coronavirus and COVID-19 go to ABC30.com/coronavirus
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