As COVID-19 cases rise across New Jersey, local hospitals are bracing for a surge in virus patients.
In an interview with the Bayonne Community News, Chief Hospital Executive Dr. Vijay Singh described the efforts taken at Bayonne Medical Center to prepare for any uptick in virus cases.
Singh said the hospital is prepared to handle an increase in COVID-19 patients while preventing the spread of the virus at the hospital.
Cases are climbing again
Singh said that active virus cases drastically dropped during the summer, due to community cooperation in terms of wearing masks and social distancing.
However, the city has been witnessing an uptick over the past 30 to 45 days, Singh said. He believes that the spike may have been caused in part by residents spreading it to the city from out of town or out of state.
Overall, cases have remained low at BMC because most residents have been self-quarantining and recovering at home. But if cases keep climbing, more hospitalizations are inevitable.
Bracing for impact
Singh said that all the front line therapies that have proven most effective remain available. Dexamethasone, Remdesivir, IL-6 inhibitors and convalescent plasma therapy are given to patients. For the worst patients, ECMO therapy is available.
The hospital has employed thermal imaging temperature screening stations at the entrance to check everyone entering the building for COVID-19 symptoms.
There are designated floors for treating COVID-19 patients, as well as COVID-free floors. On dedicated COVID-19 floors, daily cleansing protocols incorporate the use of ultraviolet light.
A stockpile of personal protective equipment is available for staff and patients that Singh estimates can last between six to eight months.
The hospital has put limitations on visitors, limiting patients to one visitor per day during certain hours. Due to the limited hours, nurses help connect families through phone or video calls.
BMC offers cardiac rehab to patients who beat COVID-19, to analyze how the heart has been affected by the virus. Some survivors are experiencing weakness of the heart muscles.
More efficient testing
The hospital has significantly expanded its testing capability. Singh said that every patient admitted to the Emergency Room is tested for COVID-19.
For outpatients, the hospital offers COVID-19 testing to Bayonne residents with an appointment and prescription from their physicians. Antibody testing is also available at BMC, Singh said, which does not require a prescription and takes walk-ins.
Singh said that the new BioFire testing system takes only around a half hour to an hour for results.
“In case we get hit with a surge like in March and April, we now have the capability to differentiate between influenza and COVID-19 with just one swab,” Singh said.
Preventing a “twin-demic”
The ability to quickly distinguish between the flu and COVID-19 will be essential in the coming months to prevent a “twin-demic.”
“We are preparing for the flu, and we are preparing for a second wave or surge of COVID-19 cases for a period of time,” Singh said.
If patients have the flu, they can be discharged from the ER with an immediate prescription of Tamiflu and a follow-up appointment with their primary care physicians after five days. Singh said that frees up hospital beds and increases capacity for potential COVID-19 patients.
Singh said that everyone needs to get a flu shot.
According to Singh, everyone in the hospital is getting flu shots. He said it’s important that the hospital reach 100 percent compliance this year. BMC has partnered with the Department of Health to accomplish this.
Singh said the hospital staff is experienced from the first wave, having learned important lessons such as the early use of front line therapies can save lives and that patients’ conditions can worsen dramatically over the course of 48 hours.
According to Singh, BMC is now better equipped in terms of front line therapies, policies, clinical diagnostics, and testing. He reminded residents that they can be treated at the hospital without contracting the virus.
Singh said the hospital is on standby, waiting for evidence and research on the number of cases coming in, to reopen the drive-thru testing at Veterans Stadium. According to Singh, it might not even come to that if the number of cases doesn’t exceed a certain threshold.
The city’s COVID-19 Task Force has been meeting regularly again. Members from BMC are part of the task force and participate in weekly calls to make sure that the city is prepared for another virus surge.
According to Singh, the best way to mitigate the spread of the virus is to wear masks and social distance.
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