Mar 12, 2020 - Health

Hospitals' next steps for coronavirus influx

Hospitals are dusting off their pandemic preparedness plans in anticipation of overcrowded waiting rooms and supply shortages as the coronavirus outbreak continues to spread.

The big picture: Hospitals are preparing for tens of millions of cases and millions of hospitalizations from COVID-19.

"One of our tasks is to make sure that we get the right care to the right patient at the right time and that means keeping the worried well and the mildly ill out of our emergency departments and clinics where they might not need to be and they might cause exposures to people who are there for other medical reasons, and also kind of clog the system."
— Lisa Maragakis, associate professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School os Medicine

By the numbers… In a survey of 6,500 nurses from the National Nurses United:

  • 19% report their employer has a policy to address employees with suspected or known exposure to novel coronavirus. 43% don't know.
  • 44% report their employer has provided them information about novel coronavirus.
  • 30% say their employer has sufficient PPE stock on hand to protect staff if there is a rapid surge in patients with possible coronavirus infections.

What they’re doing: Hospitals and clinicians are exploring ways to delay an inevitable influx of patients by pushing in-home care, and possibly limiting elective surgeries.

  • EvergreenHealth hospital in Kirkland, Washington has been rationing supplies like goggles and overworking staff across all departments while caring for nearly 70 patients, the New York Times reports.
  • Massachusetts General Hospital doctors are pushing for pop-up clinics and more testing, the Washington Post reports.
  • Johns Hopkins University is looking to turn entire medical units into a respiratory isolation unit for patients.

Overseas: Doctors in the United Kingdom are stressing how ill-prepared its hospitals are if they reach capacity, — as has happened in Italy, the New York Times reports.

A leaked slide from an American Hospital Association presentation in February shows the hospital system is expecting an impact 10 times more severe than flu season. That could include:

  • 4.8 million hospitalizations
  • 96 million cases overall
  • 480,000 deaths

Go deeper: Full coronavirus coverage

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