CHI Health, including Good Samaritan in Kearney and St. Francis in Grand Island, has established a free helpline to answer questions and help people across the region find out if they are at risk for COVID-19.

“We are hoping to ease fears and make the initial first step easier for possible COVID-19 patients to seek help,” said Mike Schnieders, Good Samaritan president. “By calling ahead, not just walking in, we are not only ensuring the best care plan for the patient, but also reducing the risk of exposing anyone else.”

To initiate the helpline, visit www.CHIHealth.com. Three questions will be asked about recent travel, exposure to anyone who’s tested positive for COVID-19, and symptoms like respiratory illness and a fever over 100.4 degrees. Those deemed at high risk will be directed to the helpline and a health care provider will call within 30 minutes.

“How you respond to the questions will determine your next steps. For instance, you may just need more information or your symptoms could easily be addressed with a virtual care video chat with our health care providers,” said Dr. Scott Frankforter, St. Francis medical director. “If at risk, one of our specially-trained physicians or an advance practice clinician will call with additional questions and discuss next steps of care.”

Help is available 24 hours a day.

“CHI Health serves patients from Kearney, Neb, to Corning, Iowa, and we want to make sure everyone has access to critical information about COVID-19. We want to provide everyone in our region the right level of care at the right time and in the right place,” Schnieders said.

In addition to the helpline, CHI Health is taking extra precautions at its clinics and emergency rooms. Staff are screening patients when they arrive to further eliminate any potential of spreading the virus.

“Our clinic and ER patients are welcomed by a staff member who asks a couple of questions and, if needed, provides a mask and takes the patient immediately to a room,” Frankforter said. “This does not mean we think you have COVID-19. But you could have the flu or a different respiratory virus, and we are taking precautions in your best interest.”

Patients recovering in the hospitals are vulnerable and at a higher risk of developing more severe illness. Schnieders said their patients are more susceptible to outside germs.

“Just like during peak flu season, we urge our community to think twice before visiting,” he said. “Please do not visit patients if you have a fever, cough, sore throat, body aches or nasal congestion in the past 24 hours.”

Frankforter said CHI Health’s helpline, virtual care, patient screening and visitation reminders are all designed to limit exposure.

“When you limit exposure, you limit the spread of the virus,” he said.

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