Local hospitals are nearly doubling their capacity as a predicted surge of people needing medical care relating to COVID-19 infection approaches.

Statistical models vary in their estimations for when and to what degree a surge will hit the community, but both Floyd Medical Center and Redmond Regional Medical Center have enacted plans to deal with the expected influx of patients.

Some positive news is that the locally enacted social distancing and isolation measures appear to have been working.

The Murray Model, which is also used by the White House, originally predicted local hospitals would need to cope with an influx of nearly 500 critical care patients by the end of April, said Redmond CEO John Quinlivan.

More recently the same model is putting that number near 50, which still isn’t an insignificant number.

“We’ve had more social dispersion and we’ve worked on social distancing and it’s created a tremendous mitigating effect,” Quinlivan said.

Floyd converts parking area to surge facility

Floyd Medical Center is in the process of converting the lower level of a parking deck on its campus to a 200-bed emergency facility in case the hospital’s capacity is overrun.

“This is for a worst case scenario,” said David Early, vice president of support services and operations at FMC.

Hospital officials are looking at a couple of statistical models that predict a surge of patients infected with COVID-19. One predicts a surge coming in late April and another predicts late May. Either way, Early said, they’re working on preparations.

“We’re planning for the worst and hoping for the best,” Early said.

In addition to the facility on the lower level of the parking deck near the 330 building — which they’re referring to as P1 — the Georgia Emergency Management Agency has loaned them a 20-bed mobile hospital unit.

Those two additions, combined with FMC’s capacity within the hospital of approximately 299 beds, would provide a surge capacity of approximately 519 beds, Early said.

The cost of the temporary facility, which is being fitted out with the assistance of Parker Fiber Systems and Brasfield & Gorrie General Contractors, hasn’t been finalized and he wasn’t sure what the price figure will look like.

“Accounting has asked me the same question,” Early said. “This is all happening pretty fast ... I pray and many others pray we never utilize this surge capacity.”

They’re hoping to have the P1 surge facility ready by mid April in case either of the statistical models tracking the COVID-19 are correct.

After the threat has passed they intend to tear it down and turn the area back into a parking deck.

Partnership and planning at Redmond

By looking at what the hospital would need in an emergency situation, Redmond Regional Medical Center has prepared to vastly expand its capacity to deal with varying levels of need.

In early March, Quinlivan said, they were seeing projections that Redmond could be called to treat more people than the hospital could possibly hold. They sat down and figured out how many people they could treat in an emergency situation.

The most visual change has been tents set up outside the hospital — one to serve as an overflow space for the emergency room and another donated by GEMA to serve as a triage if needed.

Actual efforts to prepare have gone much deeper. Partnerships with area hospitals, the Georgia Department of Public Health and Harbin Clinic have been key to formulating a plan.

“There’s been a great medical community collaboration through all this,” Quinlivan said.

Harbin Clinic doctors as well as surgeons have said from day one they expected to be called in to help as cases rise. As capacity increases Harbin physicians would come over to help where needed, even those with very specialized medical training.

“The specialists would be integrated with our house-based doctors,” Quinlivan said, and they will use rooms normally dedicated to surgical procedures for patient overflow.

The varying phases of the plan call for measures that could increase capacity in the hospital overall to care for 323 patients as well as bringing ICU capacity to 82.

In an emergency surge situation, such as one New York City is suffering through, Quinlivan said the hospital could treat up to 443 patients.

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