Mobilizing for the Surge of Patients
Across University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS), creativity and ingenuity ensured patients had access to high-quality care every day of the pandemic.
These innovations include:
- UM Capital Laurel 3-4-5
- Lord Baltimore Triage Center
- UMMC Biocontainment Unit
- UMMC Modular Care
- UM Rehab COVID Rehabilitation
UMMS affiliate UM Capital Region Health has played a huge role in Maryland's COVID-19 response. UM Laurel Medical Center, part of UM Capital Region, had recently converted from an inpatient hospital to an outpatient facility offering surgery, behavioral health and 24/7 emergency care. But with the pandemic surging during the spring of 2020, the Maryland Department of Health granted emergency authorization to reopen three floors of UM Laurel Medical Center for inpatient care for COVID-19 patients.
Known as UM Laurel 3-4-5, these floors are dedicated to inpatient COVID-19 medical/surgical, critical and intensive care. The additional 135 beds provide needed relief to hospitals throughout Maryland as their ICU and inpatient beds fill during patient surges. UM Laurel 3-4-5 has dedicated an operating room and a wing of the emergency department for COVID-19 patient care.
The facility was equipped with state-of-the-art diagnostic and respiratory care equipment and staffed by doctors, nurses and clinical specialists who are experienced in the care of COVID-19 patients. Because they only treat COVID-19 patients, these experts are a valuable resource to community hospitals, allowing them to refer patients as needed.
One of the most creative steps taken by UMMS was to work with Baltimore city officials to establish an innovative center to help protect residents from the effects of COVID-19 by providing a space for patients who do not require hospitalization, but who are unable to safely isolate anywhere else.
The Lord Baltimore Triage, Respite and Isolation Center (LBTC) was created in May of 2020 within the Lord Baltimore Hotel – just a few blocks from the University of Maryland Medical Center. The LBTC helps to limit the spread of COVID-19 for both individuals and families, primarily in high-risk settings and among the most vulnerable populations – those in congregate living facilities and people experiencing homelessness.
Under the clinical leadership of both Molly Rice, MSN, CRNP, as medical director and Vanessa Augustin, MSN, RN, as the nurse manager, UMMS partnered with Baltimore's then-Mayor Bernard C. "Jack" Young, current Mayor Brandon Scott and Baltimore Health Commissioner Letitia Dzirasa, MD.
The LBTC provides both shelter and care support services managed by UMMS clinical teams, ensuring the safety and well-being of more than 1,500 individuals affected by COVID-19.
There are floors for both COVID-positive and COVID-negative residents – offering care during the course of illness, as well as quarantine rooms for those who have been exposed but are still in a period of waiting and do not want to expose others.
All those staying at the LBTC are referred to as residents, not patients, to further solidify the project's mission of ensuring that every individual is treated to "hotel-level" service. This project has been able to provide dynamic service and rapidly adapt to community needs as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve.
When the 2014 Ebola virus crisis in Africa resulted in some patients becoming sick in the United States, the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) quickly prepared and opened a biocontainment unit (BCU) by converting two rooms in an existing intensive care unit. Although Ebola virus was never detected in Maryland, the rooms were ready for any patient with infectious disease.
When COVID-19 was detected in Maryland, the BCU was expanded and moved to the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center, where it now accommodates as many as 32 patients. Thanks to negative pressure in each room, the COVID virus is prevented from becoming airborne and infecting others.
The BCU is uniquely designed to safely care for patients with a highly contagious disease, with a team skilled at managing patients on a form of life support called extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO). UMMC is the only hospital in the system that provides this care, managed by highly trained clinicians called perfusionists.
Although summer brought a slight drop in COVID-19 cases, UMMS leaders knew from models developed by epidemiologists that there would be another surge in late fall of 2020.
Before the second wave of COVID-19, UMMS leaders planned and constructed a modular building on a parking lot across from UMMC. The Modular Care Unit contains a fully equipped intensive care unit to care for critically ill patients. The unit went from concept to opening in just five months, thanks to a partnership with the state.
Because of this planning and the experience of the first surge in the spring, UMMS was able to continue performing both time-sensitive and non-urgent surgical procedures during the second COVID surge in Maryland during the fall and winter.
In addition to physical and occupational therapists, patients have 24/7 access to a multi-disciplinary team of neurologists, respiratory therapists and other specialists. UM Rehab & Ortho has helped the many patients who suffered the vascular and neurological complications of COVID.