Hospitals discuss surge plans in preparation for rising coronavirus cases

Hospitals discuss surge plans in preparation for rising coronavirus cases

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - While cases of COVID-19 are surging in Shelby County, hospitals said they do not have to implement any surge plans yet. Typically those plans involve freeing up more beds and resources to care for an overflow of patients.

With several hospital networks in Shelby County and even more hospitals within those networks, there isn’t one benchmark that would kick a surge plan into place at all hospitals. At this point in the pandemic, no Shelby County hospital has had to implement a surge plan, but it’s something they’re evaluating daily.

With a lot of eyes on the alternate care facility and when it may open amid a growing number of hospitalizations, on Friday ICU beds were 90 percent full and acute care just less than that, Memphis COO Doug McGowan reminded the public there are steps to take before that happens.

The first is for the community to take on more responsibility to bring case numbers down. The second is for existing hospitals to surge in place.

“That means opening additional beds to serve additional patients, getting the staff we need to surge in the hospitals,” McGowan said. “That’s the most effective and efficient way we can do it.”

All four major hospital systems in Shelby County have surge plans, but they all look different.

There are things some feel good about.

“We have a large number of beds certainly in this hospital, and then we have a network of over 20 hospitals,” Infectious Disease Specialist with Baptist Memorial Dr. Steve Threlkeld said.

St. Francis Hospital staff is also confident it has enough beds and resources for a surge.

In a statement, the hospital wrote:

“Saint Francis Healthcare routinely treats infectious diseases at our hospitals, and we have strong infection control policies, procedures and systems in place to screen and treat patients. In the event we see a surge of positive cases needing hospitalization, our hospitals have plans in place to continue providing care safely, including continuing to tightly manage our inventory and adding to our supplies from both traditional and new suppliers; managing our demand by taking down our census, postponing surgeries where possible; and repurposing existing space within the hospitals to maximize our capacity, if needed.”

There is one large concern many hospitals across the country are feeling.

“Manpower is a big concern,” Chief Nursing Officer of St. Francis Hospital Jennifer Chiusano said.

While no hospitals have had to surge in place during this pandemic, they have implemented some aspects of the plan. For example, temporarily pausing elective surgeries to free up potential beds. Both Methodist LeBonheur Healthcare and Baptist Memorial Healthcare said flexibility is the main component of the plans.

“There’s one area of the region hit harder, we can move items to that area,” Dr. Threlkeld said.

“We look at capacity by COVID positive patients and non-COVID patients and we also consider the acuity of those patients,” VP and Chief Medical Officer of Methodist LeBonheur Germantown Cassandra Howard said.

Regional One Health’s Chief Medical Officer Martin Croce said it does have a surge plan, but he anticipates the hospital will be able to take in fewer patients than others in the area because of the number of trauma patients at Regional One.

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