Local hospitals start "surge plans" to prep for next stages of COVID-19

Wednesday, April 8, 2020
News 12 at 6 o'clock/NBC at 7

(Source: WRDW)

AUGUSTA, GA. (WRDW/WAGT) -- With health officials expecting a peak in Georgia coronavirus cases in the next two weeks, hospitals are now creating what they call "surge plans," to prepare for a possible influx of patients.

All Augusta hospitals are planning for an overflow and a possible shortage coming soon.

Though each hospital is different, they all parallel in their challenge: confronting the rise in COVID deaths and cases.

“In the worst case scenario, the healthcare system will be severely taxed," Dr. Coule, Chief Medical Officer of AU Health, said.

It called for hospitals to have new plans.

“One strategy might be to take the lower acuity patients—patients who still need to be in hospital but not need ICU level care and push those to more rural facilities who have staffing and beds. And then provide support for to that facility for care," Coule said.

But transporting patients to other counties, officials told News 12, would be on the extreme end of strategies.

The immediate solution looks like creating new ICU-units and recovery wards.

“Moving non-COVID 19 patients in what is the post-anesthesia recovery area, concerting that into an ICU," Coule said.

AU Health will also open a negative pressure emergency department or, an isolation chamber that prevents contaminated air from escaping rooms.

And over at Doctors Hospital, they will dedicate an entire floor plus another suite, dubbing it the official COVID ward.

University Hospital will use a 56-bed site for COVID-19 patients who don't need intensive care. Half of the beds will be dedicated to COVID patients from nursing homes. And if needed, University will also build an emergency isolation unit at the main hospital.

Augusta EMA's message to city leaders: they’re making sure all the hospitals work together in their efforts.

“Our approach has always been and will continue to be the plan for the worst," Coule said.

Although the local facilities do have space and ventilators right now, doctors anticipate a shortage. Not just because there are more cases, but also because there’s a rise in severe cases where a patient may have to be checked-in for longer times.

And with the deadliest date predicted just two weeks away, the medical community is focused on preparation now more than ever.

“We have a little time to make sure that we are ready to handle that surge and that’s what our team will work aggressively towards," Coule said.

Hospitals have seen a decline in general visits because they’ve canceled all elective procedures like surgeries. With those cancelations, this allows the healthcare system to make COVID response to the main priority.

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