WNC Hospitals Prepare For Projected Surge In COVID-19 Cases

Apr 2, 2020

Hospitals in Western North Carolina are bracing for what’s being called a “surge” in Coronavirus cases in the coming days and weeks. 

AdventHealth Hendersonville is working quickly to increase capacity, should there be an influx of patients with the disease.

Equipment. Beds. Staffing. Those are just a few of the resources AdventHealth is seeking to increase -- as quickly as possible. 

In the past few weeks, the hospital says it doubled the number of ventilators to 16. Those machines are essential for cases where COVID-19 attacks the respiratory system. 

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Teresa Herbert says the hospital is making improvements daily, but outside help is essential.  

“Allocation of resources in times of critical need is a really challenging subject right now," Herbert said. "But we are working with the other hospitals to have a community response so that everyone is on the same page with how we’re going to deal with these critical shortages.”

Herbert adds they’ve also doubled the number of ICU beds at their facility in Henderson County -- a county with a higher per capita population of seniors, compared to Buncombe County. As of March 30, Kaiser Health reports there were 27 ICU beds in Henderson County, an estimated 1,313 individuals over the age of 60 per bed.

The CDC says patients over the age of 60 are at a higher risk for more serious complications from COVID-19.

Dr. Herbert says she’s meeting regularly with medical officers from Pardee and Mission to plan for the expected overflow of patients. 

Mission Health this week announced it’s setting up triage tents to increase capacity outside of emergency departments. 

Dr. Herbert says AdventHealth is looking at expanding its capacity by housing patients in gyms and a nearby boarding school that now has vacant dormitories. She says there’s still a shortage of protective gear, and she’s concerned about the security of her staff and patients.

"It’s a double challenge because it's already challenging to cope with such a serious illness and the big influx of patients," Herbert said. "But trying to do it with one hand tied behind your back because you don’t have the resources you need creates another level of stress."

She adds, for every day that an influx of patients is postponed because of social distancing practices, it gives health providers another day to prepare. 

AdventHealth is a business sponsor of Blue Ridge Public Radio.