We are actively addressing the COVID-19 pandemic. With new developments daily, we remain focused on protecting our patients, employees, physicians, and partners. Our company policies continue to evolve to ensure we are best addressing these circumstances. We will update these common questions below as frequently as possible.
What is the company doing to protect its physician partners and staff?
We are acutely aware of the dangers COVID-19 presents to our patients and clinical care teams. In January, we instructed all our dialysis centers to begin preparation, including the ordering of protective masks, and had them conduct pandemic exercises overseen by our disaster response team. Our chief medical officers and clinical services teams have been engaged for many weeks in preparation and planning.
All patients are screened for respiratory illness and fever to identify potential cases of COVID-19. All patients and physicians are required to wear surgical masks and we have restricted visitor access to our facilities.
In addition, our employees adhere to strict infection control procedures every day. These existing policies have been reinforced to ensure personal protective equipment is used during any interaction with our patients from the waiting room to the treatment area.
How are you keeping everyone updated?
In February, we established a central site in our Medical Office Newsroom that can be accessed by all employees, medical directors, and affiliated physicians with our latest policies, FAQs, patient handouts, and other documents related to our response. In addition, we are holding regular conference calls with physician partners and clinic staff to address questions and new information.
We have been working closely with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control to ensure we are adhering to or exceeding all updated guidelines.
How will you treat a patient displaying symptoms of COVID-19?
With the risk of increased community spread, our screening protocols have been updated to screen any patient with respiratory illness and fever. Initially, we referred suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 to local health departments and hospitals equipped to handle isolation of that patient and provide dialysis.
We will soon be able to test all patients of Fresenius Kidney Care with symptoms for COVID-19 with no need for an emergency room visit. We have secured thousands of tests and are working with laboratories to get results as quickly as possible.
Are you concerned about placing too heavy a burden on hospitals?
We are conscious of not overwhelming hospitals as the prevalence rate surges in the coming days and weeks. As part of this strategy, we have identified isolation shifts and designated isolation clinics for dialysis. Patients who are mildly symptomatic will receive their dialysis at one of these locations and be referred for testing without an emergency room referral. Isolation will remain in effect until an absence of infection is documented. More severely symptomatic patients will be sent to the emergency room for treatment.
Azura Vascular Care can assist with moving surgical procedures, such as placement of PD catheters or AV fistulas, out of the hospital setting and into our outpatient centers.
Do you have sufficient amounts of supplies for patients and employees?
All our dialysis centers were asked to order extra masks and equipment in January, and we are watching the situation closely. So far, we have not experienced supply chain disruption, including through our own pharmacy system, FreseniusRx. Additionally, we have not seen an impact on our ability to deliver home dialysis equipment and supplies to our patients.
What are considerations for home dialysis care teams and patients?
We are expanding telehealth options in order to limit the need for in person visits during this pandemic. Most home patients already use PatientHub, our connected health platform, and this will be even more important in the weeks ahead
All home dialysis patients as well as our delivery teams have been given specific instructions to protect against potential spread of the virus. We have provided recommendations for how to preserve the supply of masks and have instructed patients not to share those masks with friends and family members.
If a patient or their family member develops a fever, cough, or other symptoms they are instructed to contact the home nurse by phone for further instructions. Patients with symptoms should not come to the clinic.