Skip to Content
Close Icon

COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions

Below is a list of frequently asked questions from associates about COVID-19. Please note that the situation and official guidance are changing rapidly. We will make every effort to keep this document updated, but the most current information will be available in the E-Connection, on our blog, and on Facebook and Twitter.

Is CHCS prepared for COVID-19?

We have been preparing since it was first reported that the virus would extend out of China. Here’s what we have done:

  • Worked with medical staff to develop protocols for patient screening and treatment
  • Carefully monitored supplies (gowns, gloves, masks, other PPE) and instituted conservation plans
  • Worked with partner organizations to get more supplies (particularly masks and gowns)
  • Created multidisciplinary COVID-19 Response Team that meets twice per week and more as necessary to share information, coordinate communication, and address needs as they arise
  • Engaged in extensive planning for a medical surge
  • Attended webinars from KDHE, CDC, KHA, and other professional associations to receive updated information (these are ongoing)
  • Created special section in the weekly E-Connection to keep associates updated and held special Zoom meetings for associates
  • Communicated information to the public through our blog and social media (Facebook and Twitter)
  • Attended Pottawatomie County preparedness meetings
  • Maintained communication with community partners
  • Reviewed policies and procedures related to associate illness and absence and had important conversations about how things could change if we have a large number of associates out because of illness
  • Gathered a Labor Pool group to examine how associates can be temporarily reassigned from departments experiencing lower volumes to departments that need help
  • Postponed events and some meetings to focus on COVID-19

Are we screening patients for COVID-19?

Yes, we are actively screening patients for symptoms.

When will we start screening associates when they arrive for work?

Long-term care facilities have been doing this since their closure to visitors. Daily screening of associates at all locations began April 5. Associates take their temperature and inform their manager of the reading. Managers will keep a log and review screening questions with associates as necessary. 

Why aren’t we testing more people for COVID-19? Are we using private labs?

We are following KDHE guidelines for testing, and they have relaxed in the last few weeks. KDHE announced the afternoon of March 18 that testing no longer requires KDHE approval, but patients still needed to meet certain guidelines. A shortage of test kits and supplies still requires us to be careful about who we test. 

We are able to send tests to private labs. This helps us test more patients, but we are still required to be good stewards of limited testing resources. Test results are taking several days. 

Why aren't we providing drive-up/drive-through testing for COVID-19? 

Our medical staff has not recommended that approach at this time. Please see above question and answer and note current restrictions on testing. 

What are we doing to protect Eastridge, St. Marys Manor, and Redbud residents from COVID-19?

These facilities are closed to visitors, and associates are being screened when they come to work. Associates are also wearing masks to protect residents. We have also revised our hospital visitor guidelines.

What are we doing to protect our associates from COVID-19?

We have informed those involved with patient care of procedures to follow if they encounter a patient with a suspected case of COVID-19, including how to use PPE to protect themselves. Fitness Centers and other areas are closed to the public. We have closed senior care facilities to visitors and have changed hospital visitation guidelines. In Onaga, all patients and visitors must enter through the main entrance during business hours and the Emergency entrance after hours, and all entrants are screened, including vendors. We are closely monitoring the health of associates and have communicated employee illness policies and procedures to managers. 

All employees began wearing homemade face coverings while at work on April 14. This is to protect both associates and patients from someone who is carrying COVID-19 but not exhibiting symptoms. 

Associates should wear masks: 

  1. When coming to work or leaving work. A good time to put on your mask is before leaving your vehicle.
  2. When you cannot maintain six feet of separation between you and another person, both people need to wear masks. This includes working at your desk, especially if you work in a high traffic area.
  3. When you leave your desk to, for example, visit the bathroom or the photocopier.

Where can I find more information on masks? 

The best resources and patterns for homemade masks are the Kansas Department of Health and Environment Homemade Mask/Cloth Covering Guide and the Centers for Disease Control guide, "Use of Cloth Face Coverings to Help Slow the Spread of COVID-19." 

Cloth face coverings should: 

  • fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face;
  • be secured with ties or ear loops;
  • include multiple layers of fabric;
  • allow for breathing without restriction; and
  • be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape.

CHCS has received many donations of cloth masks from our communities. If you need a mask, please contact Employee Health Nurse Christina Hasenkamp at extension 5109. 

What should I do if I have travel plans?

Travel guidance continues to change as other areas of the country experience a growth in cases of COVID-19. If you travel out of state, you may be required to be quarantined for two weeks upon your return. Consider postponing or canceling your plans.

What should I do if I get sick?

If you are sick, notify your manager. Stay home until you are no longer contagious. Most importantly, if you have a fever, stay home. A fever is a temperature over 100.4 degrees, without taking acetaminophen or ibuprofen (these drugs can mask a fever).  If you have questions about how long you could be contagious, please call Employee Health (Christina Hasenkamp, 785-713-2355 or ext. 5109) or Infection Control (Karen Elliott, 785-799-7200 or ext. 5021). 

If there is a reasonable chance you have been exposed (for example, by standing within 6 feet for at least 10 minutes) to a confirmed case of COVID-19, call Employee Health (785-713-2355 or ext. 5109). Christina will ask screening questions and work with Infection Control Nurse Karen Elliott. CHCS recommends staying home, under self-quarantine, for at least 14 days.

Update to the illness policy as of April 23: As an added layer of protection for both associates and patients, we’ve made a change to the illness absence policy for during the COVID-19 pandemic. Any associate who is not able to work due to illness, even after only one day's absence, will be referred to Employee Health Nurse Christina Hasenkamp for follow-up and approval to return to work. Christina will inform both the manager and the employee as soon as the associate is cleared to return.

If you are ill, please contact your manager as usual. Your manager will contact Christina and send an Employee Illness Report Form. Christina will then contact you to discuss your symptoms.

What happens if I am tested for COVID-19, and what does it cost?

Those who are tested would need to be quarantined at home until they have two negative tests 24 hours apart and they are fever-free without taking fever-reducing medications.  

Tests through KDHE are free of charge. Other services associated with a clinic visit will be billed as usual.

What happens if I have to stay home for 14 days or more? Will absences be excused? Will I get paid? How will my PTO be affected? Are there other options for paid leave? What if I am downstaffed?

During this time of increased risk of illness, CHCS will excuse absences related to illness.

PTO: In March, we suspended the PTO policy that requires associates to use PTO to make hours worked equal their regularly scheduled number of hours and announced that associates would have the choice to use PTO or not if they are off work until the COVID-19 crisis is passed. UPDATE as of April 16: CHCS qualified for the Small Business Administration Paycheck Protection Program, which requires us to maintain our payroll, so associates with 160 hours of PTO or more should use PTO when they are downtstaffed or taking the day off. Associates who are downstaffed are welcome to investigate opportunities through the Labor Pool. 

Using the recently enacted Families First Coronavirus Response Act as a guide, CHCS has worked to establish paid administrative leave for associates who are quarantined for reasons related to COVID-19.

Coverage will be available for the following three situations and is effective this month (April 2020).

  1. An associate is under a state or local quarantine order or is caring for an individual who is under a quarantine order; or
  2. An associate is self-quarantined under the advice/direction of a healthcare provider; or
  3. An associate is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and is seeking a medical diagnosis.

CHCS will allow administrative paid leave for two weeks and up to 80 hours. For example, if an associate works 40 hours per week, the person is eligible for 80 hours. If an associate works 24 hours a week, the person is eligible for up to 48 hours for the 14-day time frame.

Please note:

  • All requests must be approved through Human Resources before entering leave into Optimum.
  • Associates also must get approval for the paid administrative leave prior to traveling anywhere with a current quarantine order upon return.
  • For example, if an associate decided to go on vacation to Colorado or other location that requires a quarantine when the associate returns home, approval during the quarantine would be unlikely.
  • If the associate had to travel for a doctor's appointment or an urgent or emergency situation, approval would be likely for the two-week leave upon return.
  • It is extremely important to contact Human Resources and obtain prior approval before traveling.

Extended leave through the Family and Medical Leave Act, or FMLA, is also an option for certain associates. This offers 12 weeks of protected leave at two-thirds pay. Associates are allowed to use 12 weeks of this type of leave in a 12-month period.

Questions about leave should be directed to Cindy Flentie at [email protected]. Human Resources wants to ensure that all of our associates are taken care of in this difficult time, and CHCS will work with you to find solutions to individual problems. 

What should I do if I don’t have child care while my children are out of school?

We recognize that day care and school closures present a hardship for associates. In Onaga, we are exploring options with Adventure Time Child Care across the street from the hospital. If you have suggestions for entities we should talk to in other towns, please let us know at [email protected]. Cindy Flentie is collecting a list of licensed daycare providers with openings as well as teenagers who may have spare time and be able to help younger students with online school or homework. If you have a resource to recommend, please email it to her at [email protected]

What is our overall financial situation? 

We have sufficient resources to weather the situation for a time, but we need to be good stewards of our labor. We need all associates to combat the consequences of COVID-19. 

Will associates be reassigned, downstaffed, or laid off? If I am downstaffed, how is my PTO affected?

CHCS has no plans for layoffs. A Labor Pool group has been convened to examine how associates may be reassigned if circumstances require and to ensure associates have an opportunity to work. We have no plans to reduce anyone's pay, although associates may be asked to clock in under different job codes to ensure we are keeping appropriate records that will be required if we want to apply for federal reimbursements of COVID-19-related expenses at a later date. If we downstaff certain departments because of lower volume, those associates retain their benefits and continue to accrue PTO. 

As of April 16, associates with more than 160 hours of PTO should use PTO when downstaffed or taking a day off. This cuts down expenses and helps us maintain our payroll, which is required by the Small Business Administration Paycheck Protection Program. 

What happens when Kansas issues a "shelter in place" order?

Kansas has issued the order, but healthcare workers are allowed to go to and from work without restrictions.

Although Kansas officials have said that employees do not need to produce letters or badges, HR has provided letters for associates to present to law enforcement to demonstrate that they work for a healthcare organization if asked. We advise associates to keep the letters and their badges with them at all times. If an associate normally gets dropped off and picked up at work by someone else (such as a spouse), the associate should provide that person with a copy of the both the associate's letter and badge in case law enforcement asks to see it. 

Does CHCS offer telehealth services? 

Yes, we started telehealth visits the week of March 30.  

Will we postpone our Health Fair and Community Baby Shower? What about the Associate Recognition Banquet and Hospital Week? 

We have postponed our Health Fair and Community Baby Shower and the Associate Recognition Banquet. We will find new dates for these events as soon as we are able. Hospital Week celebrations depend on the situation in May, but we will attempt to retain some of our traditional activities. 

Where can I find information about the effects of market volatility on my retirement plan? What options are available as a result of recent Federal legislation? 

COVID-19 has had a global economic impact and has affected the U.S. Stock Market. For questions on how this will affect you personally, we recommend that you contact our consultants at Two West. Visit Two West at www.twowestcompanies.com or contact Mike Curran by email at [email protected] or by phone at 913-647-8376.

Anyone who participates in the Community HealthCare System Retirement Plan has some options available as a result of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security, or CARES, Act.

The three options are subject to requirements and are available for a defined period of time.

  1. In-service coronavirus-related distributions from a participant's vested account balance without regard to the normal withdrawal restrictions;
  2. Loans and loan relief; and
  3. Suspension of required minimum distribution payments for 2020.

Full details and contact information for Two West advisor Mike Curran are available in this PDF

Where can I direct community members who want to volunteer?

We are developing lists of people who have expressed an interest in sewing masks or offering expertise (such as those with nursing skills who are retired, working in schools, etc.). If you receive questions or hear of individuals who want to help, please send information to Cindy Flentie at [email protected] or Sarah Hancock at [email protected]

How are we recording donations?

If you receive a donation of PPE supplies, homemade masks, food, or other items, please let Sarah Hancock know so she can ensure that donors are properly thanked. Email [email protected] or dial extension 5133.

How can I manage my anxiety? 

Many people are experiencing heightened levels of anxiety. Below are three articles that offer tips and help.

Where can I find updated information?

We are sharing CHCS updates for associates in the E-Connection. Some updates may also go out via email. Information for the public is shared on our blog, on Facebook (@chcsks.org), and on Twitter (@chcsks). Recordings of video messages and Zoom meetings are available in Public Folders > COVID-19 Updates. 

The best sources of information outside CHCS are the Kansas Department of Health and Environment COVID-19 Resource Center at http://www.kdheks.gov/coronavirus/ and the Centers for Disease Control COVID-19 website at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/

What else do I need to know?

  • Opportunists often try to capitalize on uncertain or emergency situations. Beware of scams and remember what you've learned about phishing! Look out for suspicious email and text messages, medical supply scams, or fraudulent donation sites. If you receive a suspicious email or text, don't respond or click the links. Report phishing activity to IT.
  • Currently there is no evidence that packages from China are a source of infection.

Where can I ask questions?

Please do not call health departments or other outside entities. Please direct questions to your manager or send them to [email protected]