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COVID-19 update from Adventist Health: Hospitals share surge plans and continued response to the pandemic

Emergency Services, News

Adventist Health hospitals in Mendocino County continue to care for the community even as COVID-19 cases continue to rise.

“The three hospitals are working very closely with Mendocino County Public Health and community partners,” said Jason Wells, president for Adventist Health in Mendocino County. “These agencies’ quick response to the Sherwood Oaks outbreak show their incredible partnership and dedication to saving lives and protecting the most vulnerable in our community.”

According to Wells, nine patients have been transferred to Adventist Health Mendocino Coast over the past week to help stop the spread and provide extra hands to help care for the residents. “We have a dedicated COVID-19 care unit for these patients, which allows for protection through isolation and infection prevention. I am proud of our passionate team who are assigned to caring for these patients to aid in their recovery and prevent the further spread of COVID-19 to our community.”

The leadership team of Adventist Health in Mendocino County started working on a plan at the start of the pandemic. “Our main concern with this crisis was overwhelming our limited healthcare resources. We opened our Incident Command Center in March, and our teams came up with plans to add beds, procure the necessary supplies and plan for staffing needs,” shared Wells.

The three hospitals cancelled elective surgeries and other non-essential procedures and appointments early on to prepare for the expected surge. While it didn’t come at that time, Wells says, the extra time allowed the team to continue refining the plan, getting everyone familiar with it and securing the necessary supplies and equipment. “It bought us critical time to refine our processes and truly prepare. And now, a few of those surge plans are being deployed, and I’m so proud of teams for their dedication, flexibility and resilience.”

Surge planning added the potential to double the number of hospital beds in the county if a full-blown surge occurred. This strategy provided 100 extra beds to allow the three hospitals to care for COVID-19 patients as well as other patients needing care, including surgeries and emergency services, locally. It also involved a ground-breaking innovation that allows patients to be cared for at home, yet served by physicians and nurses just as if they were inside the walls of the hospital. The Adventist Health Hospital@Home provides additional bed capacity, while keeping patients safe and protected from the virus.

“Throughout the pandemic, we’ve maintained a hospital inpatient census of around 70 patients between the three hospitals, leaving 30 beds of our traditional 100 beds free. With the surge strategies that provide up to 200 total beds, we have ample capacity to serve Mendocino County as we continue to care for the community through this crisis,” stated Wells.

Dr. Bessant Parker serves as the medical officer for Adventist Health in Mendocino County and has been instrumental in coordinating the response strategy to COVID-19 across the hospitals. “Managing infectious disease is part of everyday business for a hospital. The coronavirus may present us with a volume of patients that we don’t normally see, but our hospital has been caring for COVID-19 patients and other patients needing care, and we continue to be ready. We also continue to work with public health and our healthcare partners to best coordinate our resources,” shared Dr. Parker.

As part of surge planning, the hospital also secured additional ventilators, thousands of masks and other essential personal protective equipment (PPE), which are monitored on a daily basis. The value of being part of one team serving the county means moving resources where they are needed. “Our materials management team sends a report every day, making sure our teams have what we need, and we plan for any eventual needs. We are able to move supplies to the coast and even share them with partners such as Sherwood Oaks. Additionally, being part of a health system in three states, we are able to depend on resources when we need them. We really are stronger together, and having the support and access to these resources as a rural community has never been more important.”

The challenge for hospitals and clinics nationwide continues to be testing supplies. “There were challenges with testing before the increase in cases, but now with the increased cases comes the increased need in testing; and the supply doesn’t match the demand.”

The hospitals all have Abbott machines and a BD Max, which uses a different reagent to process the tests. “We have procured different testing equipment specifically to make sure we have a back-up when the other has issues. But now with the demand nationally, both companies cannot keep up with demand.”

To make sure there are enough tests for those who need them the most, Dr. Parker says the hospitals are following state guidelines for prioritizing testing for individuals. “Top priority for testing is individuals who have symptoms who are to be admitted to the hospitals, healthcare workers with symptoms and those individuals needing to be tested as part of management of outbreaks such as in the case of Sherwood Oaks.”

“We understand community members are concerned and they want to get tested. We’ve had individuals show up in our emergency rooms who have no symptoms but are coming back from travelling or needing to go back to work. While we would like to be able to test everyone, our resources do not allow us to do that at this point. As acute care facilities, our priority will always be caring for the sick to save lives. As such we would prioritize testing for those whose test results will inform care decisions.”

As these challenges remain and the pandemic is not over, Dr. Parker reminds the community to continue taking precautions to do their part as healthcare workers on the front lines continue to do their part. “The response to this pandemic requires a community effort. We cannot do this work alone. Please continue to support our healthcare workers by sheltering in place, wearing masks when in public and only gathering with your stable social bubble.”

Even as the increase in cases continue, along with the added strain of sheltering in place and managing their own families at home, Wells says the teams at all three hospitals continue to be inspired and dedicated to caring for the community. “I am continually in awe of our teams. The care they have been providing has been heroic, smart and relentless; and I couldn’t be prouder of their dedication to being a force for good and serving in love for our community.”