Hospital ‘ready’ for COVID-19 patients

WESTFIELD-If cases of coronavirus begin to appear in the Greater Westfield area, Baystate Noble Hospital’s chief medical officer, T. Britton Percy, M.D., said the staff is “totally ready” for any worst case scenarios.

During a phone interview on Monday afternoon, Percy noted that the staff has been engaged for the past month with “table talk conversations” that allowed employees to review all of the hospital’s available space and how areas can be designated to ensure that non-infected patients do not come into contact with anyone presenting with COVID-19 symptoms.

T. Britton Percy, M.D., Baystate Noble Hospital’s chief medical officer, said the staff is “totally ready” should area residents present with COVID-19. (Baystate Noble Hospital photo)

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness caused by a coronavirus that was first identified during an outbreak in China, according to Baystate Health’s website. 

As of Monday, Percy said Baystate Noble Hospital has not seen a patient with COVID-19. 

Should more state residents become infected and the virus continues to spread, and in particular from the Berkshire area, Percy expects that Baystate Noble Hospital will see patients with COVID-19.

“In the past week we have seen people coming in with fever, shortness of breath and coughing, but we are triaging them and restricting the flow from various entrances,” said Percy.

A rapid response triage area with a gowned and masked caregiver has been set up in the vestibule of the Emergency Department to minimize co-mingling of individuals who may be infected. The screening protocols are designed to keep people with mild illness at home and to protect employees who are evaluating them.

“We trialed the procedure during Sunday’s afternoon and evening shifts and made some adjustments so we plan to have the triage area running 24 hours a day for the foreseeable future,” said Percy.

Percy added the triage area is primarily to protect people from getting sick from other people. Depending on how COVID-19 spreads in the area, Percy said all scenarios have been taken into account – with Baystate Noble Hospital being full of patients and having to set up tents outside.

“Every day we conference call as a health system and also conduct daily meetings at the hospital,” said Percy, adding that the latest information about the spread of the disease, new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, and available resources are all reviewed with staff.

Continuous staff education and up-to-date communications from Baystate Health’s Incident Command Center are also tantamount to staff morale, according to Percy.

“When this started to ramp up, we educated the staff about what is happening and gave them data that makes a difference,” said Percy, adding that the addition of wiping down and cleaning surfaces and equipment several times a day has also been important for employees to see.

Currently, three emergency department beds have been designated for COVID-19 patients, with 12 additional beds ready in the event that an influx of patients occurred in rapid succession. As part of the disaster plan in place, a negative pressure room is also set up in the Emergency Department, as well as a unit should the need arise.

Since Baystate Health is partnering with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health on patient testing, only those hospitalized and critically ill are getting tested at this time, according to its website.

“We are currently using the one nationwide testing lab in California which can take up to a four-day turnaround,” said Percy, who is hopeful that as Quest Diagnostics in the eastern part of the state comes online this week the testing time would then be between 24 to 48 hours.

“By mid-week we should see a big change,” said Percy, adding, “We are totally ready for this.”

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