As cases of COVID-19 continue to surge each day, St. Anthony Hospital in Lakewood is preparing for a possible influx of more patients. There have been 97 confirmed cases of the virus in Jefferson …
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As cases of COVID-19 continue to surge each day, St. Anthony Hospital in Lakewood is preparing for a possible influx of more patients.
There have been 97 confirmed cases of the virus in Jefferson County as of March 26, and to help combat the spread, St. Anthony Hospital is not allowing any visitors for patients who have COVID-19. All other hospital visitors are required to get their temperature checked, be screened using standardized questions and must check in at the front desk. If visitors are healthy, they receive a sticker that is dated.
The hospital can hold 237 people and is owned by Centura Health, a health care provider that owns 17 hospitals in Colorado and Kansas.
Centura Health Denver Metro Group Vice President and Physician Executive Steve Cobb said the organization is working hard on advising people to stay home and to practice social distancing in an effort to flatten the curve — the idea that reducing social gatherings and closing businesses and schools can slow down the spread of COVID-19.
Elective surgeries, like getting a hip replacement, are postponed in Colorado until April 14 to give hospitals additional resources. Cobb said St. Anthony Hospital is in a position to be used to take an overflow of patients that have COVID-19 or other illnesses.
Centura Health is working with its physician partners, administrators and leaders at every one of its hospitals to have a surge plan.
Cobb fielded questions on March 25 from the Lakewood Sentinel about Centura Health’s access to supplies, staff and other questions. Here is what Cobb had to say.
What does the outlook on equipment and supplies look like?
We have the capacity to do all the work we need to do, but we need to expand it. We need more ventilators, and we are acquiring those. We’ve acquired more hospital beds, although we have a lot more in reserve that we can deploy. Personal protective equipment, as you’ve seen nationally remains an issue, so we have plans following U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance on how to reuse personal protective equipment if we start running low. And all of those plans are in place, but boy we would love to see what the plan is for distributing the Strategic National Stockpile in each county, and I haven’t heard anything about that.
I’m interested to see what happens with the auto industry and their pledge to produce more ventilators. Those are not easy machines to make, and I expect there are upstream supply issues in getting what is needed to make ventilators. I don’t have a direct line of site into that, but in all of our communities, we need to be prepared to do more.
And then there is the issue of testing. We have to increase our testing capacity and our turnaround times. We are still seeing very long turnaround times from commercial labs and the state. That has got to get better.
How do you think your staff are holding up?
I think they are amazing. More so than workload, we just have a lot of fear out there. There is a lot that is not known about this virus; it is new. None of us have ever been in a pandemic before, and so even in spite of that fear, the majority of our physicians, clinicians, nurses, respiratory therapists — they are just showing up to work every day and being heroes.
They are doing a great job in keeping each other encouraged, and the thing we are managing more so than folks being overworked, although that day is coming too, is just being afraid. We’re helping them understand the facts, how to protect themselves and how to take care of patients in a great way. In general, people are really pulling together.
Do you expect St. Anthony to reach full capacity?
It is really difficult to predict when we are going to see a big surge in patients, and so much of that depends on how well we have mitigated the spread of the virus. Hopefully we can suppress it with pretty extreme social distancing measures, county by county.
I think what we are imagining though is sometime in the next week we will see a pretty big increase in volume, and St. Anthony is such an important hospital to Lakewood. We’ll expand its capacity for caring as best as we can. We’ll even do creative things like using OrthoColorado (a Lakewood hospital that is designed for orthopedic patients), our sister hospital to St. Anthony, which isn’t going to be doing a lot of elective surgery. We’ll repurpose that hospital, and we’ll use staff to get it open to take care of overflow.
Do you have the staff needed for a possible surge?
Yeah, I think we have a lot of folks who have been in health care who are committed to see patients that we can redeploy. Some nurses who work in orthopedics have the capacity to work in intensive care units. We have gathered a list of who those people are so we can redeploy them. There are a lot of health care workers who are not working right now because of the restriction on elective surgeries. That is a good blatant work force to use.
I think beyond that, we have a lot of people who were traditional health care workers that got out of health care because they can make more money in business or as an entrepreneur. And now with everything closed down, we’re bringing those people back to the workforce and making sure they have the correct credentials and capacities to take care of patients. We’re working with all sorts of community organizations to try to get those folks back in, including physicians. We have a lot of plans.
This interview was edited for clarity and length.
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