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NorthShore University Health System currently is caring for 80 COVID-19 confirmed patients and 12 to 14 patients under investigation at Glenbrook and Evanston Hospitals, according to Doug Silverstein, President of NorthShore Evanston Hospital. Currently 23 patients are in intensive care units and 14 of these ICU patients are on ventilators
Mr. Silverstein was reluctant to state a number for the projected peak number of COVID-19 cases. “I want to be careful about putting projections out there because they could be so wrong”, he noted. “We have been watching the trajectory over the past two weeks. We think we will have enough med surg beds and ICU beds to handle what is predicted to be the surge over the next two to four weeks.”
NorthShore has been preparing for the COVID-19 virus spread since the third week of January, holding the first town hall meeting at the end of January, and daily planning calls the past seven weeks.
Health system management has been studying the trend of cases and taken steps to maximize ICU bed capacity for an expected surge in cases. These steps include devoting all of Glenbrook Hospital ICU beds to COVID-19 cases and devoting part of the hospital’s In-Patient area to COVID-19 ICU patient care. These measures will almost double the number of ICU beds available at the two locations, from 45 normally to 86. Evanston hospital will continue to care for COVID-19 patients, but the vast majority of patients will be treated at Glenbrook Hospital.
NorthShore currently has 150 ventilators and enough nurse and staff personal protective gear. “We think right now with the projections that are out there, unless there is something that goes well beyond what we predicted we are in good shape with ventilators”, Mr. Silverstein said.
Three weeks ago, NorthShore took measures to reduce the number of non-COVID-19 patients at Evanston Hospital by eliminating elective surgeries and testing and elective out-patient physician visits to get ready for the expected surge in COVID-19 cases. As a result, hospitalizations are down 50 to 70 patients per day from a typical mid-week daily hospitalization of 310 to 340 patients.
The critical issue in the next few weeks will be keeping staff available and healthy. NorthShore has 11,000 employees, “Our hope is that having this level of staff and physicians available to us that we will be able to cover any surge”, stated Mr. Silverstein.
Evanston Hospital has implemented new procedures to ensure staff members are virus free before entering patient care and public spaces. These include routing staff through a restricted, employee-only entrance, daily temperature checks and health question screening. Management is also taking steps to ensure that staff taking care of COVID-19 patients are not over worked and that they are getting an appropriate amount of breaks, rest and time off.
Mr. Silverstein noted that employees are very appreciative of the out-reach and support from the Evanston community such as home-made banners thanking hospital staff, donations of food and personal protective equipment such as masks, and notes from students. “For staff coming in every day, having this level of support has been very heartwarming”.