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0000017b-652b-d50a-a3ff-f7efb02e0000KPCW's COVID-19 news coverage for Summit County and Wasatch County, Utah. 0000017b-652b-d50a-a3ff-f7efb02f0000You can also visit the Utah Department of Health, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization websites for additional information.

Intermountain Healthcare Prepares For 'The Surge'

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Intermountain Healthcare

Intermountain Healthcare is prepared to take additional steps to address the expected increase in the number of COVID-19 patients over the coming weeks – even months. That plan was announced Tuesday. 

Intermountain Chief Operation Officer and Executive Vice President Rob Allen said although they look at the projections every day, they really don’t know when a surge of COVID-19 cases will hit the state of Utah. He says they will continue to monitor the progression of COVID-19 cases in the state as well as across the county while they prepare to change things up in their normal operations.

“There are a number of models that are used to project and our teams have looked at a number of models across the country and around the world and tried to understand those models and project ours,” Allen said.  “One thing that we know is that every model is wrong.  And that's because there are a number of factors that have to be built in and projected in them.  But we do our best and others who are building models do their best and we continue to monitor that so I wish we could say exactly when we thought the surge would be here, but if we follow what's happened in other communities it's still ahead of us.

Preparations started several weeks ago when Intermountain postponed elective procedures and non-urgent treatment. This was done to preserve personal protective equipment - PPE and to open up space in Intermountain facilities for COVID-19 patients. 

This surge plan Allen says could be implemented over the next few weeks and months if necessary.

Allen says the large centers along the Wasatch Front and the Dixie Regional Medical Center are designated to take care of those who are most critically ill. These facilities will continue to care for regular, critically ill patients as well as COVID-19 patients

The Park City and Heber Community Hospitals he says will be equipped to treat COVID-19 patients with less severe symptoms.

“Our community hospitals will also care for and have cared for patients that have COVID-19. Park City and Heber, as examples, are community hospitals that will receive patients, help diagnose patients, and treat patients to the extent that the capacity and capability of those hospitals can do that,” Allen said.  Patients that need extended care will be transferred to larger facilities in Salt Lake City.”

In order to create the capacity that might be needed in a surge of COVID cases, he says they’re running a trial at TOSH – The Orthopedic Specialty Hospital in Murray, usually reserved for orthopedic and some neuro surgeries. Here they will treat medical and surgical patients who do not have COVID-19, if more beds are needed in their other facilities

        

“We are going to this week test our capacities, or I should say our abilities, to handle these different types of diagnosis of patients in TOSH and we will admit a handful of patients there to work with our nursing staff and make sure that everything runs smoothly so that in the case of the surge we can handle large numbers of patients be admitted to that hospital,” Allen said.

He says they can also free up their pediatric wards in the larger hospitals by transferring all pediatric patients – up to the age of 30 – to Primary Children’s’ Medical Center. 

Some rural hospitals may handle a small number of COVID-19 patients using Telehealth services for consultations with specialists. Most COVID-19 patients in rural settings will transfer to larger hospitals.

While Intermountain is in good shape regarding the amount of PPE they have on hand, he says it’s always a concern.

        

“I have concerns about PPE only because we've seen other places that have struggled with that,” Allen said. “We have a good supply of PE here at Intermountain Healthcare and in Utah.  The state's been involved in helping us, we've had reserves in our stores as well that we've deployed.  We have additional actions coming forth that will help us produce even more PPE for our caregivers and for other caregivers here in our community.  So, we feel like we're in a good position.  We will continue to monitor that and continue to take every effort and opportunity to obtain more PPE just to have in store in case we have a significant surge and be ready to care for patients and keep our caregivers safe.”

Intermountain clinics, including the one in Park City, will continue to provide COVID-19 testing, urgent care visits, and necessary primary care services.