MOUNT VERNON — As Ohio and Knox County pass through the anticipated “surge” of coronavirus cases over the next week or so, as modeled by the Ohio Department of Health, Knox Community Hospital has been preparing for a spike in cases for well over a month.

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KCH spokesman Jeff Scott said the hospital, a 99-bed facility with a normal capacity of 65 patient beds filled, does have plans in place to accommodate up to 185 COVID-19 patients at one time. If the surge doesn’t happen, as Knox Public Health Commissioner Julie Miller has noted, it’s “a good time to be wrong” — and better than the alternative of being ill-prepared and overwhelmed.

“Currently, we have 149 rooms we could use as part of our response to a surge, based on available resources and space that was created when services like the birthing center was relocated to the Wright Family Medical Pavilion,” Scott said. “We have not needed to set aside any conference rooms, but do have a number of spaces that could rapidly be converted for patient care if necessary.”

Although arrangements were made to have more beds brought into the hospital to help with the surge, including dormitory beds donated from local colleges, there has not been enough patient volume to take that step.

“We have greatly appreciated the community support we have received as part of our response preparation,” he offered. “And we continue to be grateful that our community is following the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Ohio Department of Health and Knox Public Health in practicing social distancing, staying at home when possible, and wearing masks in public.”

Making space available is not a problem for the hospital, Scott said. Plans are that all of the COVID-19 patients treated will be in the main hospital building. That was done to centralize staffing and supply resources.

“We have three floors we could dedicate to COVID positive patients, and all of our rooms are private,” Scott said. “We also have additional areas that could be utilized for non-COVID critical care patients.

“We are evaluating all of this on a daily basis, and all planning is flexible and adaptable depending on the acuity of illness for the patient population presenting for care at KCH. We have processes in place to protect all of our patients and staff from the risk for exposure or cross-contamination.”

KCH is also in good shape regarding ventilators should they be needed for Intensive Care patients who have contracted COVID-19. Normally the hospital has 12 ICU beds. The hospital can triple that number if needed, he said, offering, “We are able to dedicate an entire floor and have already cross-trained nurses. We have physicians and other experts such as respiratory therapists that have held classes with hands-on competencies.”

He added that the hospital’s nursing education and organizational development staff worked to swiftly create education plans, already implemented for more than 400 nurses. The hospital’s supply of ventilators has increased from 33 to 44, due to community collaboration and donations, with some of the units involving the donation of CPAP machines to serve as ventilators.

“Supply and equipment initiatives across the community have been extremely helpful, not only in our current planning and preparation, but in the evaluation of our local capacity to meet unexpected needs should any other emergencies (non-COVID related) arise in the future,” Scott offered. “We benefit from leadership that has supported our participation with the Ohio Hospital Association, Ohio Department of Health, Knox Public Health, Governor DeWine’s identified regional collaborative (Columbus hub for Knox), Central Ohio Trauma System, local Emergency Management System, and the Emergency Management Agency just to name a few.”

KCH is also part of one of the largest purchasing groups in the nation, HealthTrust, he said, giving the hospital a purchasing power on equipment it would not otherwise have as an independent rural hospital.

The hospital is monitoring its supplies of PPE — Personal Protective Equipment — daily, Scott said, conserving their use while being in regular contact with local and state coalition partners to ensure supplies for anticipated patient volumes. Donations are still being accepted through collaboration with Knox Public Health and the Knox County Emergency Management Agency. This week, KCH received its first returned supply of nearly 70 N95 masks, which were decontaminated by Battelle, a Columbus-based company. Clear directives are given to hospital staff on the proper use of PPE to eliminate waste as supplies continue to be in high demand nationwide.

Those who visit KCH and any of its facilities are encouraged to wear a mask, even a homemade cloth mask, Scott added.

Because of low patient counts during the coronavirus pandemic, due in large part to lower-than-expected COVID-19 cases locally, Scott said there have been a few furloughs of KCH employees in certain areas where staffing needs were lower than anticipated. Some staff members have also had their hours reduced periodically.

“Wherever possible, we’ve tried to retain staff by utilizing them in our response efforts, whether helping at screening stations across our campus, or serving as lab couriers, or being cross-trained for potential clinical needs during a surge,” he said.

Two more positive COVID-19 cases have been reported for Knox County, bringing the total to 15, Knox Public Health reported Thursday. One is a 54-year-old man reported Wednesday evening, who is hospitalized at KCH. Another is a 45-year-old man, reported Thursday and isolated at home, who is a healthcare worker in Marion County. There were also positive cases reported on Sunday, one a 37-year-old female under home-isolation who works in Richland County and a 39-year-old male reported Tuesday, isolated at home after being exposed to another positive case. That makes four new cases for the week to date.

Knox County COVID-19 Positive Cases

Results Age Gender Tested in Details Current Status
March 20, 2020 28 Female Franklin Works in Franklin County; Not Hospitalized Home Recovering
March 23, 2020 71 Male Knox Traveled from Florida; Hospitalized at KCH Recovered
March 29, 2020 38 Male Licking Works in Franklin County Recovered; back to work
March 30, 2020 72 Female Franklin Hospitalized at KCH Home Recovering
April 1, 2020 90 Male Florida Hospitalized in Florida Deceased
April 4, 2020 42 Male Knox Not Hospitalized Recovered
April 5, 2020 72 Female Knox Exposed to a confirmed case in another county Recovered
April 8, 2020 28 Male Knox Works in Marion County; Not hospitalized Recovered
April 10, 2020 77 Female Knox No Known Exposure Recovered
April 12, 2020 22 Female Knox Works in Knox and Franklin County Home Isolation
April 15, 2020 54 Male Knox Works in Marion County Home Isolation
April 19, 2020 37 Female Knox Works in Richland County Home Isolation
April 21, 2020 39 Male Knox Exposure to another confirmed case Home Isolation
April 22, 2020 54 Male Knox Works in Knox County Hospitalized at KCH
April 22, 2020 45 Male Knox Healthcare worker in Marion County Home Isolation

SOURCE: Knox Public Health (10:00 a.m. 4/24/2020)

 

Larry Di Giovanni: 740-397-5333 or larry@mountvernonnews.com and on Twitter, @mountvernonnews