COVID-19 Preparations in Full Swing at UM Shore Regional Health
University of Maryland Shore Regional Health (UM SRH) is intensely engaged in planning to care for our community in the event of an influx of patients needing hospital care as result of the possible impact of COVID-19.
Fortunately, as of this moment, in all UM Shore Regional Health locations, the overall number of hospital admissions and emergency department visits are down, largely due to messages from the community and media that have helped to direct concerned people to the appropriate community provider settings and reduce unnecessary hospital volumes.
Planning for a potential surge of patients at the hospitals began more than a month ago and continues to evolve on a daily basis.
“As part of University of Maryland Medical System, Shore Regional Health is actively preparing for the presence of COVID-19 in our communities,” says Ken Kozel, UM SRH president and CEO. “Every day, our medical and nursing staffs and team members in every aspect of our health care system, are working together to plan for various contingencies in the event of a surge of patients who need hospitalization.”
Key developments to date are as follows:
• Enacted system-wide (UMMS) and regional (UM SRH) incident command structures in mid-February staffed by appropriate personnel to coordinate resources and direct actions for the entire organization in relation to COVID. Duties include:
o monitoring the rapidly changing state, national and global, COVID situation
o real time monitoring of staff availability, supplies and bed capacity in all three hospitals
o preparing to maximize surge capacity in all three hospitals
o participating in planning efforts undertaken by local government and health officials in all five counties, and keeping in daily contact with those officials
• Postponed all elective, non-emergent surgeries and procedures, beginning March 18 to managing a potential increase in patient volume. This action was designed to provide additional capacity for UM SRH hospitals to treat those patients in greatest need.
• Revised visitor policy, effective March 19, prohibiting all visitors into the hospitals unless they have a special exception.
• In partnership with UMMS, created a fully staffed 24/7 Nurse Hotline to answer COVID-19-related concerns. That number is 1-888-713-0711.
• Erected tents adjacent to the three hospital emergency departments and the Emergency Center at Queenstown. (While not in use today, these tents could serve a variety of purposes should the need arise; in particular, they may be used to expand Emergency Department triage capacity in the evaluation and treatment of patients for fever and upper respiratory symptoms.)
• Consolidated laboratory and imaging services at certain locations to maximize efficient use of resources and deployment of staff.
• Ceased all elective/non-urgent imaging at all facilities, effective March 25. Only critical imaging is being performed. (Critical imaging services include; trauma, oncology, infection, ischemia, acute bleeding, and acute neurologic changes. Other requests are reviewed on a case by case basis by our radiologists.) Affected patients are being contacted directly regarding cancelled appointments and rescheduling options.
• Shore Regional Health has identified its surge expansion plans at all inpatient and emergency facilities. As of March 25, the system has the ability to double inpatient capacity and quadruple ICU capacity across the system if needed.
• On Friday, March 27, conducted a drill at UM Shore Regional Health’s four emergency departments to test and evaluate the functionality of the triage tents in the event of a surge in patients requiring hospitalization.
“Today Shore Regional Health conducted a drill to test and evaluate the operational effectiveness of the triage tents located at our four emergency departments,” says William H. Huffner, MD, senior vice president, Medical Affairs and chief medical officer. “As a routine aspect of our operation as a health care system, emergency drills enable us to identify the strengths and weaknesses of emergency plans, and this one was very useful in that regard. Our medical and nursing care providers and a wide range of support personnel worked together to put our strategy for the tents in use and ensure that in the event of a patient surge, our plans can be operationalized seamlessly.
“We also are in close and continuous contact with our state and county health departments, emergency management officials and a host of community organizations that are all working in concert to help minimize the spread of the virus and to assist vulnerable populations in need of food, shelter and transportation during this time,” says Kozel. “I am infinitely grateful to have the support of highly capable, dedicated and focused teams at UMMS and here at Shore Regional Health, and going forward, I am confident that our preparations will help us face the demands of COVID-19.”
The public can help reduce the severity of this pandemic by:
• Washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
• Avoiding close contact with people who are sick and practice social distancing
• Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and throw it away immediately.
• Avoid touching your face.