Cherokee Indian Hospital increases screening; continues preparation

by Mar 13, 2020Front Page, Health, NEWS ka-no-he-da






If you drive up to the Cherokee Indian Hospital and see tents outside of the entrances, don’t be alarmed. 

In an effort to increase screening for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), they have added these stations to ensure safety of the hospital. As you approach the door, there will be an employee at a table with cones around the tent. The cones are to maintain a recommended six-foot distance, and there you will answer a few quick questions. 

This is one of the screening tents set up outside the hospital entrances. The cones establish proper distance, and the questioning usually takes less than a minute. (JONAH LOSSIAH/One Feather photo)

Gwynneth Wildcatt, patient registration manager at the hospital, says that it is an easy yet very important procedure for staff and patients. 

“They’re going to ask you if you’ve had a fever or a cough. They’re going to collect your name and your birthday. And then they’re going to ask you if you’ve traveled outside of the Continental United States or been in contact with anyone known to have the coronavirus. And then we go from there. If you need to put on a mask and go into a secondary screening with a medical provider, that happens rather quickly.” 

She says these measures are being practiced at most hospitals now under recommendations offered by the CDC and other health services. 

On Wednesday, March 11, the Cherokee Indian Hospital released a video saying that there was a patient who was under investigation for COVID-19. On Friday, March 13 they received results saying that individual had tested negative for the coronavirus. 

Dr. Richard Bunio, the executive medical director at the hospital, said that they have been lucky not to have a positive case yet in this region, and that has helped them prepare. 

“I think it’s a big advantage for this area that we can educate people well in advance. We can help them understand how they can keep themselves and their families healthy,” said Dr. Bunio.

He believes Cherokee has done a good job during this time as the coronavirus has spread throughout the country. 

“I think everybody has handled it very well. Especially the staff here at the hospital and Public Health and Human Services. We’ve been meeting and planning for this for several weeks. Everybody has been cooperative. Everybody is doing their best, and actually going above and beyond.”

He also says that it is important for the community to remain thoughtful and calm moving forward, no matter the situation. That is why they are doing their best to educate the public and keep people involved moving forward. 

“I think, for the most part, panic comes from uncertainty and a lack of information…we’ve been spending so much time just getting ready, just in case, that I think now we can move into more of a public information phase where we can let people know on a regular basis what’s going on. ”

Dr. Bunio said that they will continue to prepare, and that proper communication will be vital as this situation evolves.  “One of the most important messages that we want to get out is that if you are sick and concerned, please call us. We can take care of a lot over the phone so that you are not exposed to other illnesses by coming up to the hospital unnecessarily.”