Before a likely influx of positive COVID-19 cases affect the hospital, Owensboro Health is currently focusing on “surge preparedness” by simulating the process of admitting a large number of infected patients with severe symptoms. That includes cross-training employees to work in the critical care unit and maintaining a healthy amount of personal protection equipment (PPE).
Francis DuFrayne, Owensboro Health’s chief medical officer, said his staff has been preparing for a local rise in cases over the last several weeks.
“It’s better to be over-prepared for something like this,” he said. “What we’re working on right now is how we’re going to handle a large surge of patients. We’ve talked with our doctors and nurses about how to deploy patient care where it’s needed [when that happens].”
DuFrayne said the hospital is running a mini refresher course for selective nurses who will be tending to COVID-19 patients on the critical care floor, where he and Vice President of Medical Affairs Michael Kelley will keep all of their patients who test positive for COVID-19 and require additional hospital care to get through it.
Owensboro Health has already begun receiving the supplies needed to reconfigure some hospital rooms into critical care rooms. A bonus for the hospital is that all of its critical care doctors are also pulmonary specialists.
“If we get a surge in the critical care pulmonary unit, we’ll move our outpatients out and get all of our critical care and pulmonary staff to the same area,” DuFrayne said.
Right now, OHRH has the staff and equipment for 100 critical care rooms. However, DuFrayne and Kelley said the hospital has the ability to turn that into 300 critical care rooms, if necessary.
Kelley said a surge in hospitalized cases often creates a “bottleneck” effect wherein people start asking, “How do they get in? Where do they go? How do we conserve our PPE?”
As part of their surge preparedness plan, Owensboro Health has set up two triage tents outside the hospital’s emergency department, where employees can practice these steps before the event happens. Those tents will be used in a real-life scenario to determine what level of care a patient needs.
“If a patient has respiratory symptoms, we will keep you in the triage tent, but if it’s a leg fracture or a broken bone, you would go to the emergency department itself,” Kelley said. “If we really think you need hospital care for COVID-19, we have developed a plan for getting you to the critical care floor safely.”
While hospitals across the nation have expressed a shortage of PPE for their staff, DuFrayne said Owensboro Health’s healthy amount of masks, gloves, gowns and goggles stems from their weeks-long preparations.
DuFrayne said OHRH has had enough time to plan and stock up their equipment. He said several hospitals stocked up too soon and used too much PPE too early, and now they’re running low.
“We’ve cautioned our staff not to do that,” he said. “We’re waiting for the surge.”
The Owensboro Health coronavirus hotline is available 24/7 by calling 877-888-6647. Call the hotline before seeking in-person care. More information from OH can be found here.
For the latest information and data on COVID-19 in Kentucky visit kycovid19.ky.gov or dial the Kentucky state hotline at 800-722-5725.
For the latest health guidelines and resources from the CDC, visit their website here.