SOUTHERN OCEAN COUNTY, NJ - The threat of getting sick has cast a shadow on some travel plans. However, those heading for a beach vacation on Long Beach Island or the surrounding area can rest assured. The Southern Ocean Medical Center stands equipped to handle their emergent care if something unexpected interferes with the plans for rest and relaxation.

Michele Morrison, MPH, BSHA, RN, is the Chief Hospital Executive at Southern Ocean Medical Center. She has worked at the facility for over twenty years in different capacities.  As part of her leadership role, Morrison focuses on ensuring the safety of the hospital’s team members, patients, and members of the community.

During the peak of the coronavirus crisis, Southern Ocean Medical Center had 46 hospital admissions related to the potentially deadly virus.   They are now down to just three COVID-19 cases, none of which have required critical care beds or ventilators. The hospital has several processes and policies in place to contain the risk of infection.

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“All patients who come into the hospital are tested for COVID,” said Morrison.  “We also do temperature screenings of everyone, including our team members. Anyone who comes up higher than 100.4 ° is sent home.”

Universal masking is requisite in all areas of the facility. Some of the other processes to avoid passing on communicable diseases are standard. They include extensive cleaning, implementation of physical distancing requirements – as well as segregation of infected patients. The use of appropriate PPEs is also part of the regular protocol.

Although the summer has just started, the hospital’s emergency room department has already experienced an increase as far as activity. The good news is that the patient doesn’t have to worry about being alone. The same is true when it comes to the need for medical tests or procedures. One family member may accompany each patient.

“We were able to reimplement our visitor policy,” Morrison shared. “Patients are now permitted to have one person at their bedside during the general hours of 11 am until 7 pm.”

Exceptions are made in special conditions such as labor and delivery or hospice patients. Visiting privileges are also extended for those who are dying and want a loved one by their side.

Visitors are required to stand in a clearly marked physically distanced line before obtaining a pass. They also must submit to temperature checks and answer questions regarding any potential COVID exposure.

Southern Ocean Medical Center has a total of 176 beds, including 20 dedicated to transitional care for individuals who require short term rehabilitation. The hospital is affiliated with the Hackensack Meridian Health system.

On occasion, patients on vacation may decide they would rather receive medical treatment closer to home. According to Morrison, the staff at Southern Ocean Medical Center helps facilitate the move upon request or necessity.

While no one plans a trip to the hospital as part of their vacation, it can happen. That said, there’s no need for panic when packing bags for a well-needed escape.

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