How a Washington state hospital is managing front line coronavirus battle

As the new coronavirus spread across the country, a Washington hospital at the front line of the pandemic is working quickly to accommodate and care for growing numbers of patients, according to The New York Times.

The Times detailed efforts undertaken at EvergreenHealth in Kirkland, Wash., to care for the dozens of suspected and confirmed COVID-19 patients who have come to the hospital. So far, 65 people have tested positive for the disease and 15 have died, many from the Life Care Center nursing home in Kirkland.

Up until late February, the hospital did not have any COVID-19 cases. Two patients with severe pneumonia were tested for the infection just before Washington state health officials announced the first COVID-19 case that was not associated with the first case reported in the state in January. The pneumonia patients also were not linked to anyone who had recently traveled to a region where COVID-19 had spread. This indicated that the virus was spreading in the community on its own.

Over the next few days, the hospital saw a large number of patients from the Life Care Center.

Healthcare workers have been at work constantly to isolate and identify COVID-19 patients, many of whom were called back in to work after being told to go home and quarantine themselves, reports the Times. The workers were asymptomatic and now are being screened twice per shift.

Hospital engineers have been making room for more patients. Before the pandemic, the hospital had about 15 negative air pressure rooms, where air flows inward instead of out so that contaminants are contained. The engineers have created space for 58 patients in the rooms, according to the Times.

The hospital also is conserving supplies, including requiring staff to use bleach wipes to wash face shields for air-purifying helmets, instead of replacing them, the Times reports. And the hospital has brought in plastic containers to store goggles and masks, hoping this will help supplies last longer.

"This is our new normal in some ways," Mary Shepler, RN, the hospital's chief nursing officer, told the Times.



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