COVID-19 – Our Seven-Month Journey
I’ve been asked by several people to provide an update on the hospital and what’s happening with the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s hard to believe it’s been over seven months since the hospital opened our Emergency Operations Center (EOC) led by an Incident Command team on Sunday, March 15th to begin operations and decisions specifically related to this disease and to plan for a potential surge of patients. This team met twice daily to address patient care delivery, physician and employee safety, staffing, supply chain management, communication, telehealth and virtual care, as well as protocols for testing, treating and isolating patients directly affected by COVID-19. The Incident Command Team was initially made up of the hospital’s Senior Leadership team along with representatives from plant operations, materials management, nursing, marketing, emergency preparedness, infection prevention and physicians serving as medical technical specialists. As we developed advancements in emergency operations related to COVID, the Incident Command Team meetings have tapered off and are now held every two weeks to ensure appropriate planning and risk mitigation.
Also in March, MMH transformed its Same Day Surgery unit into a COVID unit which was equipped to facilitate additional intensive care unit capacity. Through this transformation, the intensive care bed capacity was increased from 8 to 40 beds to accommodate the expected surge of critically ill COVID-19 related patients. The Internal Medicine Hospitalists lead the team of providers who cared for patients in this area. The expanded intensive care unit/COVID unit was developed in record time, with incredible teamwork and precision.
On March 23, 2020, under guidance of the American College of Surgeons, the hospital chose to temporarily postpone elective and non-urgent procedures. Additionally, outlying rehabilitation clinics were consolidated to the main hospital campus, and medical clinic visits were significantly decreased and/or performed virtually. To accommodate the re-allocation of services, the we established an employee resource pool which facilitated the deployment of human resources to the immediate areas of need. Elective and non-urgent procedures were reinstated on April 27, 2020. The temporary postponement of these procedures, as well as patients choosing to delay care as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, had a significant negative impact on patient in the hospital, specifically during March and April 2020.
In order to mitigate the financial impact of COVID-19, difficult decisions had to be made in real time and the team rapidly performed a COVID impact analysis and implemented a financial risk mitigation strategy. The financial risk mitigation and COVID resiliency plan included: delay in the implementation of a new electronic health record system, reductions and delays in capital spending, salary reductions, reductions in workforce, reduction in employee benefits, and major contract re-negotiations. In addition to this risk mitigation strategy many physicians, executive leaders and employees took additional voluntary pay reductions. Our Friends and Family also demonstrated great support of MMH by donating $132,000 to help defray the financial impact of COVID-19.
Whew – what a whirlwind! The hospital currently averages two to three inpatients with COVID-19 positive or Persons under Investigation (PUI) and has ventilator capacity for 10 patients at peak capacity. We experienced a COVID-19+ and PUI peak in April with a total of 15 patients and are anticipating a second peak of COVID-19+ patients in the fourth quarter of 2020 and into the first quarter of 2021.
In anticipation of a second COVID-19 surge, the hospital team has prepared a tiered COVID Surge Plan. The plan entails a three-tiered structure based on COVID positive patients and patients under investigation. This strategy provides for appropriate staffing, personal protective equipment supplies and bed capacity to ensure excellent and safe patient care. The COVID Surge Plan provides capacity to care for 59 patients.
As you can see, MMH has done an incredible amount of work in response to COVID-19 while at the same time continuing to care for all patients who chose MMH for their care. We are blessed with amazing care givers, providers and volunteers to help keep everything moving like a well-oiled and compassionate machine. None of this would be possible without the dedication and can-do attitude of this outstanding group of people. I would like to end with a shout out our Emergency Department staff and physicians who continue to compassionately and respectfully care for every person who walks through our door and are relating with the face of COVID-19 every day.
Leann Tobin, MMH Chief Marketing Officer, 970-240-7344