Speare Memorial Hospital Prepares for a COVID-19 Battle
These days we can get overwhelmed with information about COVID-19 and how it is spreading across the country and world. Worry about how it will impact Central New Hampshire can be distressing. And no organization feels that burden more than the employees at Speare Memorial Hospital, and for good reason.
“We know that the need for medical care over the next few weeks and months will be higher than we’ve ever seen,” says Michelle McEwen, president and CEO of Speare Memorial Hospital. “Our teams have been working tirelessly to prevent the spread of this virus in our community so that we can continue to care for those who need us most.”
According to a recent Harvard study, New Hampshire could be hundreds of beds short of what will be needed to handle an influx of patients.
“I want to assure you that Speare is preparing for this influx,” says McEwen.
Speare continues to put measures in place to ensure that the COVID-19 virus does not spread within the organization. These measures include the implementation of telehealth or virtual visits that allow patients to meet with Speare’s primary care providers and specialists online without having to leave their homes. This is made possible because the federal government has temporarily lifted restrictions for telehealth visits.
“With fewer restrictions, we can move forward more quickly,” says McEwen, who hopes to have virtual office visits available in the upcoming weeks.
To further protect patients and staff from the spread of COVID-19, Speare is prepared to begin a new triage process for those coming to the emergency department (ED).
- All patients are screened and those with respiratory symptoms, a sign of COVID-19, will be separated from those that do not.
- Those without symptoms will be directed to the ED entrance.
- Those with symptoms will be given a full medical screening to determine if they should be admitted to the hospital. If they should be admitted, they will enter the ED through a separate entrance.
- The ED itself has been divided into two areas; one for people confirmed or suspected to have COVID-19 and another for people who need ED care but do not show signs of COVID-19.
“We also have plans regarding our patients requiring hospitalization,” says McEwen. “This includes increasing our capacity, growing our 25-bed hospital to a 40-bed hospital.
Plans have been put in place to ensure that Speare’s obstetrics unit remains COVID-free, so expectant Moms can safely deliver their newborns.
Other plans include adding ten beds in the Medical-Surgical area and, similar to the ED, separating this space into two, with one section dedicated to COVID positive and suspected patients; and another section for non-COVID patients.
To care for those patients with COVID-19 that will require intensive care and ventilation, Speare is planning to convert their surgical care unit into a 7-bed unit with ventilators and dedicated staff to care for this very ill population.
“Even with all our planning, we anticipate the needs of the community may exceed the 40+ beds we will have at the hospital, so we have been working with the National Guard, the State, our regional Emergency Preparedness resources, and Plymouth State University to create an Alternate Care Site at the PSU Ice Arena and Welcome Center,” says McEwen. “This is a significant feat, and sometimes overwhelming task. We are truly grateful for our partners that are helping us with these efforts.” Cots were recently installed, and supplies are being inventoried and moved into the facility. Logistics and staffing planning are in process.
“Our entire organization is focused and committed to being as prepared as possible to care for an increased number of community members critically ill with COVID-19,” says McEwen. “We can’t stress enough that prevention is the best public health action each of us can take. It is important that we all take this virus seriously; stay at home, practice social distancing and hand hygiene. This is the best antidote for avoiding an overrun healthcare system and keeping our community healthy”.