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Continuing care: Local hospitals say needed procedures cannot wait forever

By Lee Provost | lprovost@daily-journal.com | 815-937-3364

KANKAKEE — Hospitals have been forced to make numerous and, in some cases, dramatic changes to the way they conduct their business in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Isolation units have been created. Visitors have been banned. Video physician visits have been instituted. Protections to contain any potential spread of this virus manufactured.

But officials also want the public to realize that their organizational mission remains quite the same: treating the entire public. The tentative date to begin urgent care procedures or medical necessary/time-sensitive operations is May 11.

Now that the shock waves which rocked the medical world have somewhat calmed, doctors and administrators at Riverside Medical Center and AMITA Health St. Mary’s Hospital are signaling to patients that procedures put off for these past few weeks should not be wiped away from anyone’s minds.

“People are fearful. That’s understandable,” said Nancy Crossett, director of surgical services at St. Mary’s. “I know our surgeons have already been reaching out and letting their patients know that procedures cannot wait forever. We will provide a safe, clean environment.”

Procedures are being ranked in terms of their effect on quality of life and the impact on longevity of life.

Crossett noted cancer biopsies will be the procedures first dealt with. She said issues causing extreme discomfort or illness will follow, then joint replacements.

St. Mary’s officials note hospital procedures will begin on a limited basis — meaning about 10 procedures per day. Riverside also noted procedures will be completed as the most urgent being completed first.

Procedures discussed with doctors still need — and must — be addressed so people do not experience permanent damage or even worse, a shortened life, due to placing care on a back burner rather than venturing to a hospital for the surgery.

Riverside president and CEO Phil Kambic said emergency room medical teams are dealing with patients now who should have come into the hospital at least a week ago. He said unfortunately the public believes the hospitals don’t either want to see them or that they don’t have the time. In both cases, he said, those are incorrect assumptions.

But, he noted, the public is doing what they feel is best — meaning letting the hospitals’ staffs focus on those dealing with the coronavirus.

“We are facing the question of ‘how do we open up safely? How do we deal with people whose conditions may have worsened?’” he said. “People are afraid to come in, but we need to be treating these chronic illnesses.”

Dr. Keith Moss, Riverside’s chief of staff, said unfortunately the current situation plays right into patient denial. By that, he said, patients have the excuse that their condition is not serious or worth bothering busy doctors and nurses.

Matt McBurnie, Riverside’s vice president of institutional advancement, put it another way.

“Fear has held people back. Our mission is how do we get them past that point?”

One way, Moss noted, has been the advancement of something called “telemedicine,” the medical world’s version of FaceTime. Telemedicine is a method for medical providers to communicate and complete a basic examination without requiring the patient to visit the hospital or office, thus eliminating fears of exposure to the virus.

Riverside doctors began using the system in mid-March and have conducted more 4,000 virtual appointments to date.

“You can see their face and talk to them directly. Obviously, you can’t do testing,” Moss said.

But, he said, even with those restrictions, staff gets a better sense of what is happening. If a more in-depth review is needed, then an appointment is made.

Through telemedicine, Moss noted medicine can be prescribed. A virtual visit can last anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes. It can be used in accessing patients in all stages of life, from pediatric to geriatric patients.

“This does not take away the need for a face-to-face visit, but this can be a great first step in accessing a patient,” he said.

School districts make plans to celebrate graduation

Local school districts continue to plan alternative ways to honor the graduating classes of 2020 since social distancing restrictions severely limit what is possible for a traditional commencement.

Momence School District is planning to host a graduation ceremony for high school seniors in which the graduates will walk across the stage to receive a diploma with social distancing precautions in place.

Superintendent Shannon Anderson said the district’s 75 high school seniors will take part in the ceremony May 15. The district will be putting together a slideshow to honor its eighth-graders in place of a ceremony.

Because of their small numbers, seniors will be able to gather in the gymnasium while keeping an appropriate social distance from one another. They will walk across the stage to receive their individual diplomas, and a video production of the ceremony will be recorded and made available to families. District officials are still considering whether or not family members could also be allowed into the school with social distancing in place.

“We have the luxury of having a small number of graduates,” Anderson said.

As reported recently, Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School has a similar ceremony planned, but students will be called into the school in groups over a two-day period because there are more than 500 graduates.

Kankakee School District 111

The Kankakee High School Class of 2020 will have to wait a little longer to celebrate graduation.

Superintendent Generva Walters said the school district plans to hold off on plans for a ceremony until June for its high school seniors and August for its eighth-graders. Walters addressed graduation plans Sunday in a livestream video on Kankakee School District 111’s Facebook page.

“We are pushing our ceremonies until June because we are hoping there is more flexibility with congregating and possibly social distancing,” she said. “We realize that’s probably not going to happen, but we figure by the end of May we would know exactly what we could and couldn’t do in terms of our ceremony.”

Walters said the high school commencement would be held after June 15, but what it might look like is yet to be determined. The district will consider options for an eighth-grade promotion ceremony in August, she added.

Herscher School District

Herscher School District is also holding off plans for a ceremony in hopes a more traditional celebration can take place.

Superintendent Rich Decman said the originally scheduled graduation date of May 24 has been postponed to June 26. If gathering restrictions are still in place at that time, the district will have a virtual ceremony or something similar to what BBCHS has planned.

School officials also plan to deliver congratulatory yard signs to seniors’ homes this week and put together a slideshow tribute of senior pictures.

Herscher High School has about 140 seniors in its graduating class.

“It’s important to them,” Decman said. “We will try our best to have the real thing or something as close to it as we can — something they will remember.”

Bradley approves $23 million budget

BRADLEY — A $23.5 million budget — which has money earmarked for three new firefighters, an ambulance, police cars, and street and alley improvements — was approved by the village of Bradley trustees.

By a 4-0 vote, the village board adopted the spending document on its first reading. The board is expected to approve the budget, with its $224,000 surplus, on its final reading on May 11.

The new budget year begins May 1. It is not uncommon for municipal governments to extend the current budget year in an effort to prepare the new document. Bradley, however, did not need an extension.

The budget is some $5 million higher than the 2020 budget of $18.5 million. The increased village budget is largely due to about $2 million in projected increases in sales taxes and $2.25 million in state and federal grants for road work.

The village administration had been on target to have a budget surplus of between $800,000 to $1 million at the conclusion of the 2020 budget year on Thursday, but the economic downturn brought on by the coronavirus, trimmed that surplus to about $200,000, noted finance director Rob Romo.

The village still is projecting strong retail figures as Bradley is the home to numerous so-called essential businesses such as Menards, Lowe’s, Target and Meijer which brought in strong sales tax revenue these past several weeks, Romo said.

The budget targets some $5 million in capital projects. Among the highlights are $3 million for road and alley improvements; $600,000 for an ambulance and nine police cars; $600,000 for parks and recreation upgrades; $400,000 for village building and property improvements; $200,000 for five intersection cameras along Illinois 50; and $200,000 for new accounting software.

The board is committing to adding three new firefighters to the current six-member department as it targets adding a second fire station, in the village’s northeast area, in the near future.

The administration will also be sending village property owners property tax rebate payments in the late autumn as promised due to the adoption of the 1 percentage point increase in the village’s 6.25 percent sales tax rate passed by voters in the March primary election. The new 7.25 percent tax rate takes effect July 1.

“Mayor [Mike] Watson and I went through and projected the income, line by line, as best we can,” Romo said of the budget. “We have several [essential] stores doing quite well” since the pandemic, Romo said.

On the flip side, Romo said new vehicle dealerships, of which Bradley is the home to several, have not fared well since the economy was brought to a standstill. However, Romo is hoping that as stimulus checks and tax returns begin to make their way into the wallets of village residents, those businesses will begin to pick up as well.