The coronavirus outbreak, which has already claimed two lives in
Beaufort Memorial and its staff are now in the midst of a "never-ending hurricane," Baxley said in an interview on Thursday.
He said his employees, from housekeepers to respiratory therapists, are in "good spirits." But the pandemic weighs on them.
"They're anxious, they're tired and stressed, as anyone would be in this situation," he said. "We're waiting, we're waiting, and it just hasn't seemed to come yet."
Baxley and top hospital officials say they are ready. "There really is no playbook for this," he said. "We find that preparations are never done."
In an interview with the
No 'crystal ball' for COVID-19 spread
"I don't think anyone has a crystal ball," said Baxley, praising statewide modeling made available by the
That model predicts
Baxley said Beaufort Memorial is working with a medical consultant to refine local models for
"They can run that model on
Asked if closed beaches and businesses and restrictions on gatherings were making a quantifiable difference, Gambla said it was too early to see an impact on the hospital's patient numbers.
"We think and hope it's going to make a dent," he said, urging community members to continue following restrictions.
Emergency measures in place
The hospital is working daily with state health officials, the
A small hospital that experiences an outbreak of the virus among its staff could conceivably shut down in-patient care or temporarily close, said
"I would be shocked if we don't see that in this country somewhere," he said in an interview on
Baxley says Beaufort Memorial is also prepared to treat patients if all hospitals in
Hospital officials have already said they are prepared to re-purpose space and support up to 29 patients on ventilators.
In-house testing delayed as harder-hit areas prioritized
Two weeks ago, hospital officials thought they were on the brink of being able to test for COVID-19 in-house, cutting out the delay of having to send samples to the state lab or private facilities in other parts of the
Then, a supplier rerouted critical testing kits to harder-hit areas.
The reagent chemicals and testing kits necessary to screen for the virus on existing hospital equipment were sent to the "New Yorks and Washingtons of the world," said Baxley.
Beaufort Memorial would have to wait more than two months for the supplies, officials learned.
Instead, the hospital found a vendor that would sell the hospital entirely new lab equipment. The order has been placed, said Baxley. Under a "best-case scenario" the in-house testing operation would be up and running by the end of April.
Meanwhile, Beaufort Memorial officials said last week that samples sent to a
For EMS and frontline health workers, that can feel like an eternity. "It's a big deal if they're out for a long period of time, just because we're waiting for a test to come back," said Gambla.
Beaufort Memorial is also sending samples to DHEC's lab, which cleared a backlog last week and is turning around tests in one to two days, said Gambla.
An in-house operation in Beaufort Memorial could be faster. MUSC in
As of Friday,
The hospital declined to release the number of COVID-19 patients it has admitted for in-patient treatment, citing the lack of context available for this isolated statistic and the public speculation it could generate.
Murray, chair of the hospital's board when Baxley was hired, spoke highly of his actions during the outbreak, pointing to Beaufort Memorial's initiative to start drive-thru testing before many major urban hospitals.
"We have great leadership here," she said.
Community steps up with meals, masks and donations
Local restaurants and community members have donated over 1,000 meals to hospital staff since the outbreak began, said Baxley.
One hundred Chick-fil-A sandwiches, plus
The hospital has also received critical stocks of personal protective equipment from the community, including gloves and surgical masks from
Every hospital in the country is struggling to get protective gear from normal suppliers, said Baxley. Beaufort Memorial is in a "comfortable position," he said.
"I'm never going to say we have enough N95 [respirator] masks through this crisis, because I don't think anyone is going to have enough N95 masks," said Gambla. The hospital is accepting donations of:
-- N95 respirator masks and surgical masks
-- Protective eyeware, including googles and glasses
Homemade protective equipment is being evaluated on a case-by-case basis for suitability in the hospital, said Gambla. The
Gambla said medical staff are being cross-trained and pulled from the provider community and other facilities to create a pool of emergency workers. Asked about retired medical workers volunteering at the hospital, he said, "we won't turn down any requests."
With elective procedures, a major revenue stream for many hospitals, postponed, Baxley said the hospital will continue to evaluate its position if restrictions continue into May and June.
"We do rely heavily on the outpatient elective procedures in the (operating room) to fund many other parts of the hospital," including emergency care for those without insurance, said Baxley.
The support of the community "goes a long way with our staff," said the CEO. "The staff is working hard to be prepared for the what-ifs."
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