Parkview Huntington’s Center for Wound Healing continues working for its patients

Amy Rosen (left), clinical program director, Parkview Huntington Center for Wound Healing, and Kim O’Banion, front office coordinator, focus on scheduling appointments far enough apart to ensure patient safety.
Amy Rosen (left), clinical program director, Parkview Huntington Center for Wound Healing, and Kim O’Banion, front office coordinator, focus on scheduling appointments far enough apart to ensure patient safety. Photo provided.

Even during a pandemic, when hospitals have shifted focus to being able to care for acutely ill patients fighting COVID-19, and stay-at-home orders have been in place to reduce the spread and protect vulnerable people, community members still have serious, non-virus-related needs that require attention.

Expectant moms still need to deliver babies. People injured in accidents need emergency surgery, hospitalization and rehab. People who have heart attacks or strokes need rapid intervention to prevent further damage. Individuals with cancer or other life-threatening illnesses need to maintain treatment regimens for the best possible outcomes.

People suffering with chronic, non-healing wounds also need ongoing medical care. So, while some services at Parkview Huntington Hospital were scaled back or suspended in March, the Center for Wound Healing stayed open to make sure patients had the support they needed.

The center provides advanced care for patients of all ages who have stubborn wounds requiring extra help to progress through the normal phases of healing. These wounds can include burns, crush injuries, diabetic ulcers, surgical flaps, pressure sores, venous ulcers, radiation burns, necrotizing fasciitis and other unusual conditions. They can result from motorcycle and car accidents, injuries around the home, medical treatment, workplace/farming/recreation injuries and many other causes. They’re frequently made worse by diabetes, cardiovascular disease and other chronic health conditions.

They are complicated wounds, so the center offers a variety of cutting-edge treatments to tackle them, including biologic or biosynthetic dressings, growth factor therapies, negative pressure therapy, debridement (dead tissue removal), and for certain wounds, hyperbaric oxygen (HBO) therapy.

“Care for these patients can be complex,” says Amy Rosen, MSN, RN, clinical program director of the Center for Wound Healing, “and keeping them on a regular treatment schedule is essential to healing. Patients come to us not only from Huntington County, but also from Wabash and surrounding counties.”

Knowing that closing the center during those early weeks of the pandemic might jeopardize outcomes for patients, the wound care team worked to continue supporting them, even as the nurses and technicians took on added responsibilities while the hospital adapted to care for COVID-19 patients.           

Employing hospital safety measures to protect the health of patients and co-workers from COVID-19, the wound care team removed furniture, implemented social distancing (keeping people at least six feet apart), added appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) for team members and patients, tracked mask and gown usage, followed intensive cleaning and disinfection protocols, and changed appointment scheduling to minimize the number of people with whom any patient or co-worker might come into contact.

“Every Tuesday, we had a phone nurse in the office to connect with patients and ensure they could get wound care supplies, medication refills, follow-up appointments and anything else they needed,” says Rosen. “We also conducted telehealth visits with patients who were not comfortable leaving their homes and patients who reside in nursing facilities.”

Chronic wound patients are often in a great deal of discomfort. So, in addition to the actual treatment of the wound, other kinds of support are typically needed. For instance, an off-loading device may be able to take the weight off an injured foot or ulcerated leg while still enabling the patient to move about and the wound to heal. Special wraps or dressings may be required to protect the wound, depending on its location on the body. Patients may need more imaging or bloodwork. Reconstruction may be required.

The wound team coordinates with specialty physicians in infectious disease, cardiology, orthopedics, oncology, plastic surgery and other areas, as well as footwear/orthotic providers, physical and occupational therapists, durable medical goods suppliers and diagnostic testing team members.  

In the early weeks of the pandemic, imaging and lab work were limited to supporting patients with urgent situations, those being treated for cancer and other life-threatening conditions, and confirmed or suspected COVID-19 patients. Wound care team members advocated for their patients, too.  

“We collaborated with Imaging and Lab to ensure our patients could get the tests needed to make more definitive diagnoses and determine accurate care,” says Rosen.

She offers an example: A patient met the qualifications for HBO therapy, but also needed imaging before being authorized to go on the first “dive” of the treatment cycle. Each two-and-a-half-hour session in the clear, tube-like hyperbaric chamber is called a dive because pressure inside the tube is gradually increased at the beginning and decreased at the end, similar to the changes in pressure experienced by scuba divers as they descend underwater and then return to the surface. During pressurization, pure oxygen is forced into the tissues, accelerating the body’s natural healing processes.

“We were able to work with our imaging manager to get the patient in quickly to assess the situation and move forward with HBO therapy,” says Rosen. “When someone’s been struggling for weeks or months with a painful, possibly messy wound – and the potential for infection and other complications like amputation or disfigurement – it’s such a relief for them not to have to face any more delay before beginning targeted treatment. Their quality of life has really suffered, and they are so ready to move forward.”

Most wounds do not require HBO therapy and can be treated effectively using seemingly simple options that are sophisticated in the technology they involve. Growth factor therapies and biologic dressings were born of years of wound healing research, and with consistent application, can deliver results that feel almost miraculous.

Rosen emphasizes helping patients heal as thoroughly and soon as possible is the wound team’s priority.

“We don’t want anyone with a chronic wound to hesitate in seeking care,” she says. “I know COVID-19 has people worried about coming to the hospital, so we want to reassure them. We’re taking all the necessary precautions to safeguard their health, so they shouldn’t be afraid to come see us. We’ve heard from multiple patients that it put their minds at ease to know how we’re working to keep them safe.”

Parkview Huntington Hospital Center for Wound Healing’s hours were temporarily altered in April and May, but are now returning to regular hours: Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. A physician’s referral is not needed, and patients may contact the center directly at 355-3170.

Leslie Megison is a community and media relations specialist with Parkview Huntington Hospital.