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UM Shore Regional Health sets up triage tents as COVID-19 preparedness

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CHESTERTOWN — University of Maryland Shore Regional Health has set up a triage tent here and at its other emergency center locations in Cambridge, Easton and Queenstown to prepare for a potential surge in patient volume due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, according to a spokesperson for the health care provider.

Trena Williamson said the tent at UM Shore Medical Center at Chestertown, located adjacent to the parking lot for doctors and near Washington College, has not been used.

The Chestertown hospital is licensed for 12 inpatient beds.

To date, demand for hospital beds has not exceeded capacity, Williamson, regional director of communications and marketing for UM Shore Regional Health, said in an email Tuesday, March 24.

“Reports that the hospital has been full refer to brief periods (hours) when there is an overlap between patients being discharged and those being admitted,” Williamson said in Tuesday’s email.

Since February 2018, Compass Regional Hospice has been leasing a four-bed unit on the third floor of UM Shore Medical Center at Chestertown. The unit can be privately accessed — not through the hospital — and these beds are not included in the surge plan, according to Williamson.

In an email on Sunday, March 22, Williamson said the tents will allow the four emergency centers “to gain additional space for patients ahead of any significant influx.”

“The goal for COVID-19 vigilance is to quickly evaluate and treat patients for fever and upper respiratory symptoms. This additional space will allow our system hospitals a greater level of capacity to care for patients during this pandemic,” Williamson said in the email.

Hospital admissions and emergency department visits are down throughout UM Shore Regional Health, President and CEO Ken Kozel said in an email Saturday, March 21. He attributed this largely to messaging through the media instructing patients to contact their primary care provider when they are not feeling well or have a slight temperature.

Even so, Kozel said, “We are planning for a potential surge of patients at our hospitals.”

Other proactive measures taken include a revised visitor policy prohibiting all visitors into the hospital unless they have a special exception and system-wide and local incident command structures that monitor the rapidly changing state, national and global COVID situation.

The latter is in addition to real-time monitoring of staff availability, supplies, bed capacity and surge ability, Kozel wrote in the March 21 email.

He said UM Shore Regional Health has created a fully staffed 24/7 nurse hotline to answer COVID-19-related concerns: 1-888-713-0711.

Dr. David Marcozzi, a colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves with Special Operations, has been charged with heading up the incident command structure for the University of Maryland Medical System. According to a news release from UMMS, Marcozzi is a board-certified emergency physician with 20 years of disaster experience — including federal service as director for the National Healthcare Preparedness Program at the Department of Health and Human Services and at the White House as director for medical preparedness policy.

Currently he is an associate professor and associate chairman of Population Health within the Department of Emergency Medicine at the UM School of Medicine and assistant chief medical officer for Acute Care at the University of Maryland Medical Center.

This is the first time in UMMS history that a system-wide incident command structure has been set up, Dr. Mohan Suntha, president and CEO, said in a news release Monday, March 23.

Suntha said UMMS “will continue to commit resources to the critical work at hand; to maximize our capacity to protect and care for patients and communities; to expedite vaccine testing and development through the University of Maryland School of Medicine; and to serve as a resource for the public and our partners in the state and federal government.”

What UMMS officials have labeled as a “strict patient safety policy” went into effect 3 p.m. Friday, March 20. Visitors are allowed only under specific circumstances and by prior approval of the physician administrative officer or their designee. This policy applies to all patients within UMMS hospitals and other facilities, is in alignment with Johns Hopkins Medicine, and is consistent with approaches taken by other leading health care institutions nationwide.

“Due to rapid escalation of COVID cases across Maryland and increased community spread of the disease, we have decided to enact this more aggressive and comprehensive, systemwide policy, which will be in effect until further notice,” Marcozzi said in a news release Thursday, March 19.

Two visitors will be allowed for end-of-life care and end-of-life decision making.

Other exceptions for inpatient facilities are: one parent or caregiver of a child in the neonatal intensive care unit; one parent or caregiver of pediatric patients as long as they are not symptomatic; one visitor inclusive of a professional support person or postpartum helper of a patient in the labor and delivery and the postpartum units; one visitor for patients in inpatient hospice units; one visitor to accompany patients for hospital discharge; one visitor for patients undergoing emergency surgery; and visitors who have been asked by the patient’s care team to be a part of scheduled family training for patients with rehabilitation needs.

For all outpatient appointments, one visitor will be permitted to accompany a patient to facilitate care or treatment such as an ambulatory visit, procedure or same-day surgery.

UMMS experts urge the public to practice vigilant hand hygiene, follow respiratory etiquette (cover mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing), maintain social distances when possible and avoid shaking hands.

More information about the patient safety policy can be found on the UMMS dedicated COVID-19 information webpage, www.umms.org/covid.

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