• Sara Doan, Northeast Arkansas News

Hospitals see a rise in COVID patients, prepare for a possible surge in cases


JONESBORO, Ark- Over the past several days northeast arkansas has seen an uptick in COVID-19 cases, with no decrease expected soon and hospitalizations rising as well.

"This is leading local hospitals to continuing preparing for a possible surge in cases at a moment’s notice.

"We prepared a surge plan,” says Angie Smith Vice President of Nursing, St Bernards

Medical Center. “It’s a document with a tiered approach with multiple different levels and trigger points for when we would go to the next level. It includes not only our bed capacity how we would staff those departments, where we would acquire equipment.”

Smith says if they run low on ventilators, they can convert other medical machines into ventilators.

She says they’re not using around 25% of their vent capacity.

Smith and NEA Baptists Director of Marketing Ty Jones, says they were also able to learn from other cities, how to respond to COVID.

Jones says they’re monitoring patient volumes daily and have the ability to convert machines into ventilators shall the need arise.

“We look at our number of inpatients vs our number of COVID positives,” says Jones. “We really have a multi-tier surge plan depending on how many COVID positives we have. We look at that and see how many ICU beds we have currently and how many we need.”

Both Jones and Smith say their number of COVID positives, and suspected COVID patients are rising daily.

St. Bernards has a capacity of 46 beds in their new hospital tower, while also utilizing their old ICU ward as well.

“The space that the ICU left or vacated we are now using to take care of our COVID patients,” says Smith. “We have a 46-bed capacity there to take care of ICU and a step-down or non-ICU level patients.

With serving patients in Southeast Missouri and Arkansas for NEA Baptist, if both hospitals run out of space, Arkansas Continued Care in Jonesboro will step in and serve as an overflow facility.

Both hospitals still have ICU beds available and can add additional if needed. Jones says they have the ability to expand to a COVID ward if they put their surge plan into place.

“We do have bed availability there and the negative pressure rooms are also available,” says Jones. “Those numbers we do have can go up. We have other rooms that are equipped and ready and actually transform different areas of the hospital into complete negative pressure wings.”

With NEA Baptist being part of a 22-hospital system, if the need were to arise, they could request additional resources from other Baptist facilities.

Jones says they make sure each hospital receives what they need.

Both Jones and Smith say they’ve been able to they have been able to acquire a supply of PPE, while also being conservative with their usage of it.

They say they learned and prepared after seeing other hospitals across the country deal with a shortage of the protective equipment.

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