LEXINGTON, Ky. (Oct. 27, 2020) — Although UK HealthCare is seeing its highest number of COVID-19 inpatients since the pandemic began, hospital leaders emphasize the health system is prepared and equipped to handle a surge but also plea with the public to do their part to continue to prevent the further spread of the virus.
Since mid to late summer, UK HealthCare has averaged about 25 to 30 COVID-19 positive inpatients but in the last 10 to 14 days, the number of inpatients has increased to 45 to 50.
Despite this increase, UK HealthCare hospitals -- UK Chandler Hospital, UK Good Samaritan Hospital and UK Kentucky Children's Hospital -- are still running within their regular capacity, said Dr. Mark F. Newman, University of Kentucky executive vice president for health affairs. However, if cases of COVID-19 continue to increase, the hospital has the capability to surge to 320 ICU beds in UK Chandler Hospital Pavilion A which was designed so that every room could convert to an intensive care, negative-pressure room.
With the increase in cases throughout the state, hospital leaders also stressed the need for everyone to do their part to prevent the spread of the virus.
"We want to reiterate the basic practices for the protection of you and the people around you and the people you love," said Colleen Swartz, UK HealthCare vice president for hospital operations. "They are fairly simple: mask-wearing, social distancing, hand washing - and then if you or a family member has been tested - make sure you are following the recommendations from the local health department given to you if you or someone who is a close contact has tested positive."
Also important to remember during the pandemic is to not put off or delay routine screenings and especially not to wait to seek care when needed. "The hospital really is one of the safest places to be due to the measures we take to protect our staff and our patients," Newman said. "Unfortunately, right now our case mix index (CMI) which is an indicator of how sick our patients are when they come to us, is higher than it has ever been. I can't stress enough that whether it is coming to our hospital or clinics or one in your community, to not put off getting the care you need."
Swartz added that while health care officials are always worried about capacity during flu season, this year brings its own challenges with two diseases where some symptoms are very similar but the treatments can be very different. Beginning this week, UK HealthCare will begin to offer a dual test where one swab can test for both flu and COVID-19. "We want to differentiate whether we are dealing with flu or COVIDas quickly as possible when a patient presents for care," she said.
And while preparing for an increase in COVID-19 patients as the flu season begins, there is some good news. "During the past six or seven months, we have learned a lot and we are much better prepared, we have much better access to testing and we also are seeing overall mortality rates going down because we are more effectively treating patients and finding success with treatments such as dexamethasone and remdesivir," Newman said.
Hospital leaders say while patients and families can be assured that they have the preparedness plans and expertise to care for patients, it is vital that everyone do their part to protect themselves and those they come in contact with social distancing, mask-wearing and hand washing.
"We can definitely step in and blunt this wave that we are seeing now by doing some very simple day-to-day practices," Swartz said.