With confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Virginia rising to 254, hospitals in the region are gearing up for the possibility of a surge in critically-ill patients. But they’re largely remaining silent on plans to increase capacity or what additional supplies, if any, they’ll need.
On Monday, Fauquier Hospital in Warrenton announced that it was postponing all non-urgent surgeries and outpatient services until at least April 23. Calling it “difficult but necessary” in a statement, the hospital said it was taking the step to better prepare for an influx of patients sick with the highly-contagious coronavirus.
“An important element to our preparedness is minimizing the risk of exposure in any way we can, as we navigate this rapidly evolving situation and prepare for what the next few weeks may hold,” the statement read.
But other area health care providers have been reluctant to share their number of supplies — like intensive care unit beds, ventilators and even protective facemasks. States with bigger case numbers have reported low supplies. On Monday, Stafford County made a public call for donations of masks, but from professionals with a surplus and sewists willing to make new ones.
HCA Healthcare, a national company that operates Reston Hospital Center in Fairfax County, said it had everything it needed “at this time,” but spokesperson Todd McGovern declined to go into specifics on whether it had what it would need if known cases continue increasing at the rate they have.
Since Friday, positive tests have risen by a daily average of 31% across the state. On Monday, a seventh Virginia patient died from the virus. The state reported that 3,697 people had been tested in Virginia as of Monday. Of the 254 positive cases so far, 38 have resulted in hospitalizations.
In an email to InsideNoVa, McGovern said the hospital network is continuously planning to ensure it can meet the “needs of the communities we serve as the situation continues to evolve.”
“To ensure we are prepared for an influx of patients, we have staffing contingency plans, and those include the use of HCA Healthcare’s in-house staffing agency,” McGovern said, adding that the company has been asking staff to conserve protective equipment without breaking guidelines for prevention.
If needed, McGovern said the hospital has “the ability to add bed capacity to certain areas” if needed, and that it is “working to identify other sources of important supplies and equipment to help ensure the continued protection of our colleagues and patients.” As of Monday, Reston Hospital Center was not treating any COVID-19 patients, according to McGovern.
While Reston has not issued any hospital-wide directives regarding surgeries, McGovern said it is following recommended guidelines from Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to review scheduled procedures based on “urgency of the procedure, the clinical judgement of our physicians as well as the current circumstances in the facility and the community.”
On Monday, spokespeople for Novant Health UVA Health System, Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center and Inova Health Systems all declined to answer questions about their respective preparations. Though Sentara did announce that it was postponing “some non-urgent surgeries and procedures to assist us with maximizing our [personal protective equipment] supply and our community’s safety.”
Last week, Virginia Health Secretary Daniel Carey said the state was helping hospitals increase capacity and deploy necessary equipment where needed, but the state health department hasn’t made public specifics on the broader capacity of Virginia’s network of hospitals.
Prince William County spokesperson Nikki Brown said hospitals and other facilities have been developing their own “surge plans” and working with the state health department, but that the county itself didn’t have much information on the specifics of those plans.
The state health department’s regional public information officer, though, couldn’t be reached for comment.