To the editor:

We are writing on behalf of the entire medical community in Manhattan to inform the public about efforts that have been underway for the last two weeks for collaboration and organization to prepare our community for COVID-19. The health of our community, patients, staff, and families are our top priority.

In the last week, an unprecedented collaboration of the independent medical offices in Manhattan, Ascension Via Christi Hospital - Manhattan, Manhattan Surgical Hospital, Lafene Health Center/KSU, has come together. In coordination with the Unified Command of the Riley County Emergency Operations Center (EOC), a COVID-19 Clinical Task Force was created.

This COVID-19 Clinical Task Force includes representatives from the institutions mentioned above as well as each primary care office in town, anesthesia and subspecialty groups, emergency room physicians, dental offices, K-State, Irwin Army Hospital, and Meadowlark Hills Retirement Community. The Unified Command consists of Riley County Health Department, Riley County Emergency Medical Services, Riley County Police Department, Riley County Emergency Managers, Manhattan Fire Department, as well as the City and the County. This group will coordinate the emergency response for the entire community.

The COVID-19 Clinical Task Force is led by Dr. Hank Doering, general surgeon, and Dr. Matt Floersch, internal medicine. This group has met via video conferencing twice weekly and is in constant email and text communication among providers. The goal for this group is to have a central location for distribution of information to medical providers in town. There is a vast amount of information to be distributed efficiently and it changes quickly from minute to minute.

Discussion in the group includes, but is not limited to, processes for evaluation and testing patients, turn-around time for lab tests, monitoring daily in a living document the number of available test swabs, personal protective equipment (masks, gowns, gloves, eye protection), hospital beds, ventilators, etc. between the facilities and offices so that if one group is in need we can efficiently work together to address this as best we can. We are working to share processes in our individual offices where applicable. We hope to be able to work with our local government officials to share perspective, guidance, and advice with how we can keep our community as safe as possible during this time.

We urge the public to heed the direction of the CDC, KDHE, and RCHD, and diligently practice social distancing and self-quarantine when directed based on exposures or travel. We support strict, stay at home orders as enforced in the Kansas City metro area and other communities. This disease affects ALL AGES and many people are asymptomatic carriers. For this reason, avoiding contact with others is of the utmost importance. These measures are critical to decrease the spread of Coronavirus. We must strictly adhere to these guidelines as our resources will be limited if stretched too thin. Please practice frequent hand washing, avoid touching your face, stay home if you are ill, cover your cough or sneeze with your elbow or a tissue and dispose of the tissue.

If you are ill, we request you call your primary care doctor’s office or the Riley County Screening Line 785-323-6400 first for advice on what you should do. It is important to call before entering a medical office, urgent care, or hospital, to minimize risk of exposure for others. The screening line is answered by medical providers and nurses in the community to help patients determine where they need to go if needing medical attention. For general information about COVID-19 the public can call to the Kansas Department of Health & Environment 1-866-534-3463.

Finally, we want to remind our community that our offices and local hospitals are open. We recognize that there are many other medical issues people continue to experience daily. We have gone to great lengths to assure safety of our patients and staff during this time so patients with other medical problems can continue to receive care. Patients with symptoms are being screened via the Riley County Screening phone line 785-323-6400, at medical offices, and through virtual and telehealth options depending on the patient needs.

Health care providers are still providing service to patients. Please do not hesitate to seek care from your doctor due to concerns for contracting the virus at your local hospital or doctor’s office. Precautions are in place to ensure safety for patients and medical staff. All elective procedures, anything that can be postponed without causing health risk, will be rescheduled for a later date. All emergency procedures to preserve health are still taking place.

In the past several weeks we have witnessed extraordinary volatility in the health of our nation—physically and emotionally. Know that your local health care providers and leaders are working diligently to keep Manhattan and the surrounding Flint Hills area in a position that we “flatten the curve” and use our resources in the best way possible. Some areas of the United States are already experiencing devastation from COVID-19, we are in a critical period to make a tremendous difference and avoid this devastation. Please work with us in keeping our community healthy, safe, and united.

Segen Chase, MD

Hank Doering, MD

Matt Floersch, MD

Ryan Knopp, MD

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