After months preparing for a potential influx of individuals with COVID-19, known as the coronavirus, St. Bernards Healthcare publicly unveiled its emergency-response plan to combat the disease.

St. Bernards Medical Center Vice President of Medical Affairs Dr. Kasey Holder said the organization dedicated resources early on for a COVID-19 team to implement a specific plan preparing for these patients.

“Procedures are in place to facilitate early identification of patients at risk for COVID-19 so they can receive prompt treatment and quickly be isolated from other patients and visitors to reduce the risk of transmission,” Dr. Holder said. 

When patients first enter a St. Bernards facility, they receive screening at all entry points, examining travel history and signs or symptoms of respiratory illness. These symptoms may include fever, shortness of breath, and coughing. In addition, St. Bernards discusses COVID-19 updates in its daily safety huddle meetings and weekly disaster preparedness meetings. 
Dr. Holder said frequent and open communication internally and externally proves vital to ensure a well-coordinated response. 

“We are communicating regularly with the Arkansas Department of Health and staying up-to-date with Centers for Disease Control alerts and recommendations to ensure we are prepared to provide the safest environment for our patients and healthcare providers,” she said. 

Mother Johanna Marie Melnyk, Prioress of the Olivetan Benedictine Sisters in Jonesboro, echoed Dr. Holder’s statements, saying St. Bernards has prepared itself thoroughly to treat patients with COVID-19.

“We are prepared to treat any person who comes through our doors needing help,” Mother Melnyk said. “Part of our mission ‘to provide Christ-like healing’ is to welcome everyone in the same way that Jesus did. In the Gospels, he set the example of welcoming the sick, the poor, and the stranger, and St. Bernards is committed to doing the same.”

Rather than treatment, however, Dr. Holder said she still recommended good hygiene as the best infection prevention measures. 

“As with other respiratory infections like COVID-19, the best way to protect yourself and those around you from illness is to practice good hygiene,” she said. “Wash your hands frequently, avoid touching your face, cough and sneeze into your elbow or a tissue, avoid close contact with sick people, and stay home if you are sick.”

Individuals wanting to avoid exposing others to illnesses or potentially exposing themselves may make an appointment through St. Bernards new virtual care service, St. Bernards GO. This service connects patients to a medical professional via smartphone, tablet, or computer. Operating hours are Monday-Friday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. More information is found at