Kasigluk Health Aides manage outbreak like heroes 

Story by – Asela Calhoun, BS, MA, PhD, Director, Community Health Aide Program/Education

November 3, 2016 - 4 minutes read
Theresa Twitchell, CHP; Renae Keene, Office Assistant; and Wassilene Andrew, CHA. Sharon Slim, CHP, is pictured below.

Congratulations to the team of Health Aides, CHA trainee, and other YKHC providers who came together last month to care for a large number of patients in Kasigluk during a possible foodborne outbreak of mild to severe gastro-intestinal (GI) symptoms.

During this emergent situation, Wassilene Andrew, CHA, was on call. She worked from the time she received the first call early morning Friday, Oct. 21, until evening. She then went to Bethel to take her son to ER while Sharon Slim, CHP, worked with patients at the clinic. Immediately afterward, she returned to the village to care for patients throughout the weekend.

Sharon Slim

Sharon Slim, CHP

Sharon Slim, CHP, was across the river from the clinic site Friday when the calls began to come in; she found a boat ride and went across the “unsafe” river and immediately went to work at the clinic, calling and seeing patients continually. She calmly did her job even though she was alone until Theresa and Wassilene were able to join her.

Theresa Twitchell, CHP, was on PTO that week, but when she arrived at the village late Friday she immediately responded to help Sharon with the growing number of patients. Since Wassilene had been without sleep for close to 24 hours, Theresa volunteered to take over the on-call Friday night so Wassilene could sleep a bit before returning to help with patients.

Renae Keene, CHA Trainee, was working as Office Assistant at the time. Each time we called for updates she was able to give a detailed report of progress and on-going patient care. Renee was flexible, helping with phones, maintaining patient flow, and supporting the Health Aides and phone triage by Dr. Hodges. Everyone worked under the Providers of YKHC hospital by constantly communicating with them for many hours. According to the SI, not one person complained that they were tired or seeing too many people.

In my view this was a heroic effort by all of the Health Aides and our CHA trainee, that went beyond their required duties. They deserve kudos for their positive, can-do attitude, amazing teamwork, mutual support, and collaboration with all other providers involved. Very few patients had to be flown to Bethel for follow-up; most were treated and discharged from the clinic. The Health Aides also welcomed and collaborated with the OEH and Epidemiology team sent to collect samples and support the outbreak containment on Saturday while the clinic was used as a staging area.

An added note of thanks to Brian Lefferts and Alyssa Gustafson of the Office of Environmental Health who coordinated the support team sent to the clinic on Saturday; Dr Ellen Hodges who conducted phone triage for patients and gave provider oversight support for the Health Aides; Martha Attie, SI, who was available on-call throughout the night and weekend offering support and follow-up as needed; and also Herman Geffe, Field Supervisor, who ensured that needed saline bags, IV supplies, and suppositories were sent to the clinic immediately for patient care.

This is a team to be proud of indeed!