UK HealthCare officials say they’re ready if virus spikes


LEXINGTON, Ky. (KT) - UK HealthCare officials say they are prepared if a surge in cases of the coronavirus affects the state.

Dr. Mark Newman, University of Kentucky executive vice president for health affairs, said during a press conference conducted via ZOOM, that they daily assess and evaluate their needs to be able to manage a surge. 

“We are looking at opening what we call a regional operations center for Kentucky,” he said, “that we partner with other people in Lexington, to make sure that we can manage all the patients and all the transfers from across the region.”

He noted they have seen an uptick in cases but can manage that. “We’ve not really surged; we’re running on routine capacity.”

Dr. Colleen Swartz, UK HealthCare vice president for hospital operations, said they have seen an increase in their COVID-19 patient population. “We had been running fairly consistently with 25-30 in patients with COVID; now we’re more in the 45-50 range.”

She also stated that their supply of personal protective equipment, or PPE, is in good shape. “We have the N-95 masks, disposable gowns, all the things our staff needs.”

Swartz says they are prepared to increase capacity, if necessary. “We have a plan for surge capacity in Pavilion A, where we can handle up to 300 patients with our existing footprint,” she said. “We don’t have plans for another field hospital, because we do have a nicely laid out surge plan, should we have more patients than we’re anticipating right now.”

According to Newman, due to fears of the coronavirus, some people are waiting to get medical attention. 

“Our case mix index, which is a good indication of how sick patients are when they come to us, is higher than it’s ever been,” he stated. “Whether you’re coming to UK HealthCare or you’re coming to one of the other great hospitals in the state, you need the routine care, you need the care to prevent things. I want to reiterate that it’s a safe place to be if you come to the hospital or your physician to get care.”

Swartz said there are basic practices that can protect you and loved ones from the coronavirus. “Mask wearing, social distancing, hand washing, and if a family member has been tested, please follow the recommendations the local health department will give you, if there is a COVID positive individual, for quarantine through contact tracing, if necessary.”

She also noted that the upcoming flu season may not be as bad as in the past because of heightened awareness about masks and handwashing. “Hopefully, our flu number will be lower, but I also think we are preparing to do a dual test, which will start this week. As patients come in, we can do one swab, and test for both flu and COVID.”

She adds it is important since the symptoms are similar, and they’ll want to know as quickly as possible when a patient comes in for care.        


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