Cougar Health Services mobilizes to meet the challenges of COVID-19 | WSU Insider
In any average year, WSU Pullman students go through Cougar Health Services when they feel ill, need to take prescriptions, speak to a counselor, or undergo routine eye screening.
Meeting the physical and mental health needs of nearly 20,000 students keeps the CHS Washington Building offices alive.
The past 18 months have been anything but ordinary or routine.
COVID-19 immediately prompted the CHS and its staff to act. When the students returned for the fall 2020 semester, the CHS had lines of students looking for screening or diagnostic tests wrapped around the block. Their efforts were bolstered by assistance provided by Range Health and the Washington National Guard.
“We learned in a relatively short period of time how to accelerate in a peak situation,” said Dr Sunday Henry, Acting Director of Medical Services.
The Cougs, for their part, have largely done the right thing, Sunday said. Demand for testing was skyrocketing on the eve of the Thanksgiving holiday last fall, as students worked to reduce the spread of the disease in their local communities. Continuing testing throughout the spring semester was also key to mitigating community spread in Pullman, as before the vaccine became available, early identification of COVID-19 through testing was one of the ways most effective in stopping the virus.
Once the vaccine began rolling out, WSU and CHS staff stepped up their efforts again, volunteering to use the university’s extensive ultra-cold storage that is needed to store safely. vaccine supplies for dissemination in the community. The vaccines were given first to those at high risk and then to the entire student body. Thousands of people left Pullman at the end of the spring semester 2021 vaccinated against COVID-19.
After the WSU chose to require the vaccine for the 2021-2022 academic year, a method of collecting, verifying and storing these medical records was needed. The CHS already had experience with immunization records, so tackling this new challenge “seemed like a natural solution,” said Joel Schwartzkopf, its executive director.
“Instead of other campuses having to figure this out, we said we can handle the elevator,” he said.
To date, more than 16,000 student vaccination cards have been downloaded and verified by the CHS, in addition to hundreds of requests for exemption for medical or religious reasons. Over 93% of students across the system who have complied with college requirements are fully immunized.
This fall, the CHS reopened its Bustad Respiratory Care Center, a secondary site where sick patients can be tested in an environment with enhanced negative pressure ventilation similar to that used in hospital intensive care units. [ link to previous Insider story?]. The CHS continues to offer diagnostic and travel tests, as well as vaccinations, in addition to its regular services.
In partnership with Incyte Diagnostics, Cougar Health has performed an average of about 75 COVID-19 diagnostic tests per day since the start of the fall semester of 2021, and has the ability to see just over double of them per day during periods peak demand. PRC tests, considered the gold standard for detecting COVID-19, are performed in less than 24 hours, with results sent directly to students as well as public health officials for contact tracing purposes. .
While testing is a tool available to the CHS, it will not end the pandemic.
The past 18 months have put undeniable pressure on the Cougar Health team. From doctors to nurses, therapists to office staff, everyone feels tension and faces exhaustion and fatigue on a daily basis, Schwartzkopf said.
“Right now, healthcare is in a tough space nationwide, with physician exhaustion twice as high as it was before the pandemic,” he said. “Fortunately, we’ve had two new nurse practitioners starting this semester and two more on the way, but the challenges for us are in the pipeline and the depth on the bench. The pandemic has put disproportionate pressure on those who have to care for loved ones or sick children, so we need to be mindful of how we recruit new employees and allow our team members to care of their loved ones at home. they can do their best here with our patients.