Area Hospitals Ramp Up Preparations for Possibility of Increase in COVID-19 Cases

As confirmed cases of COVID-19 rise, area hospitals are ramping up preparations in order to take on a possible increase in patients impacted by the virus. Both Marietta Memorial Health System and WVU Medicine Camden Clark Medical Center have plans in place to communicate needs for staffing, equipment, and resources as days before the projected peaks of cases count down. Per the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation’s (IHME) COVID-19 projections as of April 8, Ohio is anticipated to reach its peak in cases on April 12, while West Virginia is expected to meet it April 17 — assuming full social distancing occurs through May 2020.

On April 6, Camden Clark in Wood County opened a dedicated respiratory clinic, intended to take precautions to minimize exposure of any respiratory illness to others.

“In order to more efficiently serve our community, we’ve opened a respiratory specialty clinic at our WVU Medicine Rosemar Medical Complex and moved our COVID-19 drive through testing tent to this new location,” said Sean Smith, Vice President of Physician Enterprise & Clinical Integration. “Our goal is to provide one location for area residents that will specifically treat those patients with respiratory symptoms such as cough, fever and general flu-like symptoms and be able to provide the COVID-19 drive through testing.”

Both the testing tent and the respiratory clinic are available for patients 8:00 a.m.- 4:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. 

Other actions Camden Clark has taken include minimizing visitation to “near-zero” in the hospital, implementing an ED triage trailer for potential larger-than-normal traffic, and deferring all elective, non-emergent procedures. The hospital has also minimized entrances to the hospital for both visitors and staff and established screening procedure tools for all.

Camden Clark’s dedicated COVID-19 care unit in the hospital has a current capacity of 29 beds, including appropriate equipment to care for all levels of COVID illness. The hospital has a plan for a possible surge of patients in the event that this unit fills, which will involve converting other rooms. 

We bring in what we need to the best of our ability and stand prepared.

Jennifer Offenberger

In terms of personal protective equipment (PPE), this is being distributed to patient care staff in the hospital and at ambulatory clinics. Staff members have been provided with guidelines and access to masks, a statement from the hospital said. PPE inventory is being monitored multiple times per day. The hospital statement said that, while their supply meets the current needs of staff, it is critical for Camden Clark to plan for the future needs of staff and patients. To this end, Camden Clark continues to source equipment through their vendor network with the support of the greater WVU system. The hospital has also received donations from the community. 

In Washington County, the Marietta Memorial Health System is also enacting plans to prepare for a possible increase in the number of positive COVID-19 cases.

“We are following the model set forth by the Ohio Department of Health, and we look at our own stats,” said Jennifer Offenberger, Associate VP, Service Excellence for the Marietta Memorial Health System. “We bring in what we need to the best of our ability and stand prepared.”

Hospitals are in greatest need of items like ventilators, N95 masks, face shields, gowns, and medications needed to safely intubate patients. To meet needs, Offenberger said the health system is working with other partners in the healthcare industry, including the Ohio Hospital Association and Sg2, which is an advisory organization to health systems. 

It is everyone in the community’s responsibility to help flatten the curve by continuing to physically distance and stay at home.

Jennifer Offenberger

“Those items are important for us to have,” she said. “Every day we look at our supply because usage changes. We look at our capability to receive from our suppliers. Everything changes daily, it is fluid.”

Offenberger stressed that it is everyone in the community’s responsibility to help flatten the curve by continuing to physically distance and stay at home. Additionally, the donations of any N95 masks would be welcome. 

Community support has been critical to the health system, said Offenberger, pointing at important things like the donations of masks and supplies but also to small nods of thanks, like the kind chalk messages and signs being left at the bottom of the hill at Marietta’s location.

“We’ve just been very appreciative of the support we are hearing from the community,” said Offenberger. “Peoples Bank and Amedisys Home Health Care put up signs at the bottom of our hill, children doing chalk messages. It’s so important to our teams as they come in. They are working at the front line, they are working to protect our community every day. When we have those moments of thanks, they are so much appreciated.”