An illustration of the novel coronavirus

This illustration of the novel coronavirus was created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It reveals the structure of the virus.

A recent uptick in COVID-19 cases has area hospitals concerned, just as Pfizer reported that early data show its vaccine has a 90% efficacy rate in trials.

The same day as Pfizer’s news, Nov. 9, Goshen Hospital reported a record number of COVID-19 cases and a lack of beds to accommodate all patients.

“Today is the most dangerous day of the epidemic so far for catching the coronavirus in Elkhart County. Over half the patients in our hospital are in isolation and the total number of patients in the hospital is at record levels,” Dr. Dan Nafziger, Goshen Hospital chief medical officer and infectious disease specialist, said in a news release.

The hospital is having to postpone some “important” surgeries.

“We’ve had to transfer some patients because we didn’t have enough beds,” Nafziger said. “People who are sick still need to be able to come to our hospital if they need care.”

Rising numbers worrisome

However, several well-established strategies already in place in the health care community are aimed at effectively managing the ongoing pandemic.

“Like hospitals across the state of Indiana, Parkview Health is experiencing a sharp increase in the number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19. In the past several weeks, our COVID-19 hospitalizations have more than tripled,” Dr. Jeff Boord, M.D., chief quality and safety officer, Parkview Health, said.

Similarly, Lutheran Health Network (LHN) is expressing concern over rising COVID-19 numbers.

“The number and severity of cases in our area escalated very quickly. As of this morning, (November 6) Lutheran Health Network hospitals are caring for 107 patients with COVID-19. We are prepared to expand our capacity, if and as needed,” Dr. Vishal Bhatia, MD, MBA, regional chief medical officer, Lutheran Health Network, said.

Despite the surge of COVID-19 cases, local hospitals are managing the coronavirus and caring for patients using a variety of tactics. It’s beginning with preemptive measures that it put in place before COVID-19 patients arrived. Additionally, new processes, procedures, and enhanced safety measures have been implemented. Finally, a dose of adaptability and the continuous monitoring of available beds and supplies have helped ensure staff can meet patient care needs.

“On a system level, Parkview Health opened an Incident Command Center (ICC) in early March before we had our first COVID-19 patient,” Boord said. “The ICC has been integral in coordinating our efforts, managing resources and continually monitoring daily operations for the entire health system.”

“On the hospital level, we’ve implemented many new processes and procedures to care for patients with COVID-19 and other health concerns. Because safety is the foundation of all patient care, many of these changes include enhanced safety measures,” he said.

Parkview Health Safety measures include:

• Patient screenings – Patients are screened prior to the day of service for those with appointments, as well as at the door upon arrival.

• Universal masking – All Parkview co-workers, providers, patients and visitors (when allowed) are required to wear masks in Parkview facilities. If you do not have a mask, one will be provided.

For more safety measures go to: https://www.parkview.com/home/messages#safety

Enough beds and adequate supplies — so far

Because the number of COVID-19 patients and the severity of their illness can change daily, area hospitals have had to adjust quickly to ever-changing needs.

“We continually monitor our bed availability and supplies throughout the day to support and protect the number of patients in our care and to be prepared to adjust our surge planning based on any changes of the current COVID-19 situation in our community” Bhatia said.

Meanwhile, Parkview accelerated construction on a previously planned patient care area increasing the number of beds available.

“As a system, we closely monitor beds, as well as staffing and other resources so we can quickly adapt to meet our patients’ needs,” Boord said. Adding, Parkview Health is in a strong position in terms of critical supplies and equipment, including personal protective equipment (PPE) for our co-workers. Our supply chain team has focused considerable effort on projecting future needs and acquiring needed supply.”

Similarly, LHN is monitoring bed availability and crucial patient care supplies.

“We have adequate ventilators, PPE (personal protective equipment such as and other supplies at this time to meet the needs of our patients. Monitoring our census and bed availability is continuous because it can change at any time as patients are admitted or discharged,” Bhatia said.

Other plans for treating COVID-19 patients range from opening patient units to moving patients so they receive the best care possible.

“In some Parkview facilities, we can convert or open units to expand capacity as needed. At Parkview Regional Medical Center, we were able to expedite construction of the new south tower, adding significant capacity for COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients. We can also transfer patients between units or facilities, ensuring patients are getting the right care in the right place,” Boord said.

Team pride

Pride in a dedicated workforce that continually meets the challenges of the relentless coronavirus is apparent in area hospitals.

“We are incredibly proud of the world-class teamwork our co-workers have displayed since the start of the pandemic. This is a very challenging time, as we are caring for more people with COVID-19 than ever before,” Boord said.

Providing quality patient care on so many levels for so long has built lasting team spirit.

“Our team has done an extraordinary job of caring for COVID-19 patients since mid-March. We are extremely proud of the many ways in which our staff and physicians have risen to this challenge and continue to work tirelessly to care for our patients, each other and our community,” Natalie Seaber, RN, MHA, CNML, regional chief nursing officer, Lutheran Health Network said.

A plea for help

Troubled by rising coronavirus numbers in the community and the toll it is taking on frontline workers, area hospitals are appealing to the community for help in slowing the spread of the virus.

“We are concerned with the rising trend in our communities,” Boord, said.

Echoing the concern of increased COVID-19 cases, hospitals are asking the community to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

“We cannot stress enough how important it is for our community to continue to practice the guidelines recommended by the CDC, including social distancing, thorough and frequent handwashing, disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces, and staying home when symptomatic except when in need of medical care, including testing,” Seaber, said.

Public records on COVID-19 and data on hospital resources, including capacity and ventilator usage, can be found on the Indiana Department of Health and Allen County Department of Health websites.

Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in September that he believes a vaccine would be available to the general public in the late second or third quarter of 2021.

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