North Oaks Hospital preparing for COVID-19


Josh Archote/The Lion’s Roar

Along with a shortage in personal protective equipment, North Oaks is also experiencing a critically low blood supply. According to Melanie Zaffuto, North Oaks’ public relations coordinator, the hospital has tested hundreds of patients for the coronavirus using an outside reference lab.

North Oaks Health System, a community hospital organization, has made several efforts to adapt to the coronavirus pandemic and prepare for a potential onslaught of new patients.

As COVID-19 puts a strain on resources for healthcare facilities, North Oaks Hospital in Hammond is preparing to treat further community spread of the virus through policy changes, event cancellation and testing measures. However, like other hospitals around the U.S., North Oaks is facing a shortage of supplies required to treat an increasing amount of patients.

According to North Oak’s website, the hospital has moved to a no-visitor policy to help contain community spread and save personal protective equipment for healthcare workers. There are certain exceptions to the new visitor policy, such as pediatric patients, end-of-life care, laboring patients and same-day surgery patients.

According to Robert Peltier, chief medical officer at North Oaks, if a patient has a disease that requires no-contact isolation protocol, such as someone who tests positive for COVID-19, North Oaks will not allow visitors for those patients.

Like many other healthcare facilities in the U.S., North Oaks is experiencing shortages of the necessary equipment used to protect healthcare workers, such as gowns, gloves and N-95 masks.

Peltier commented on the shortage of supplies in an interview on KAJUN 107.1 FM.




“Everybody knows that there’s a lot of protective equipment supply chain issues currently, and we’re no different than anyone else,” said Peltier. “We’re feeling the effects of not only increased usage but, more importantly, the lack of being able to replenish our supplies.”

Melanie Zaffuto, public relations coordinator at North Oaks, commented on what needs to happen for the hospital to receive the appropriate amount of supplies.

“It is hoped that the federal disaster declaration approved for Louisiana on March 25 will address supply shortages by expediting the flow of resources needed to support COVID-19 pandemic response efforts,” said Zaffuto.

Testing for COVID-19 has been a forefront problem in the U.S.’s attempt to lessen the spread of the coronavirus. Due to a shortage of testing kits, several hospitals around Louisiana have had to reserve their tests for those experiencing severe coronavirus symptoms.

Zaffuto explained the hospital’s triage system for testing patients for COVID-19.

“The triage team will determine if individuals meet guidelines for testing,” said Zaffuto. “When criteria are met, cases will be escalated to a designated health care provider for further evaluation and/or testing via telemedicine, an in-person appointment at a designated North Oaks clinic, drive-thru testing in a secure setting or direct admission to North Oaks Medical Center.”

As of March 27, the Louisiana Department of Health has confirmed seven cases of COVID-19 in Tangipahoa Parish, something Peltier previously stressed was inevitable.

Health officials around the country have continued to stress the importance of people adhering to protocol meant to limit further spread of the virus, such as social distancing and staying home.

Zaffuto commented on the significance of the recent Stay-at- Home order issued by Gov. John Bel Edwards.

“To help stop the spread and flatten the curve, we are supporting Gov. Edwards’ Stay at Home Order effective 5 p.m. March 23 and the Louisiana Department of Health, Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners and Louisiana State Board of Nursing’s mandate to postpone all elective procedures March 19 through April 21,” said Zaffuto. “We have also suspended all tours, community classes, meetings, support groups and events booked on North Oaks’ campuses until further notice.”

As healthcare systems across Louisiana have faced the impacts of the pandemic, North Oaks has implemented multiple strategies to curb the growing number of cases in Tangipahoa Parish.

For more information and updates about North Oaks and COVID-19, follow them on Facebook and Twitter @mynorthoaks, or visit their website: