If a surge in COVID-19 cases happens in Douglas County, local health care facilities have been preparing for it.
Dr. Jason Gray, chief medical officer for CHI Mercy Medical Center said the hospital is ready for it. He said the hospital has the ability to take care of, and isolate, the patients in a special area. Gray said, right now, the hospital has plenty of surge capacity in the ICU rooms where patients can be isolated in single rooms with negative pressure, which helps prevent airborne diseases from escaping the room and infecting others.
If the hospital gets more than four or five COVID patients at one time, they would open the isolation area.
“We have the ability to, within 72 hours, set up a COVID isolation ward that has the ability to handle 30 additional patients,” Gray said. “That way we could cohort patients together and also keep staff in their PPE (personal protection equipment) in that area, minimizing the waste of PPE and also minimizing possible cross-contamination to non-covid patients in the hospital.”
The isolation ward could handle an additional six critical care patients in addition to 30 regular medical floor level patients. That’s in addition to the 16 ICU beds that the hospital has available.
Gray said the hospital is acting in alignment with the the county’s emergency operations and the Roseburg VA Medical Center. If the isolation ward is activated, he said, the county and VA will open up auxiliary care units.
The Douglas Public Health Network and the Douglas County COVID-19 Response Team want to be ready to go if there is an outbreak of the coronavirus.
Teresa Mutschler, executive director of DPHN, said she believes Douglas County is well prepared for an outbreak. Organizing the COVID Response Team and involving all the local agencies and health care facilities has been critical, she said, and it’s been a coordinated effort to get prepared for a surge in patients.
“We are in great shape in Douglas County and I think the reason is many people have done a really good job in social distancing and doing what they need to do to keep our numbers down,” Mutchler said. “But if we do have more COVID patients, we have all worked together to put a really good system in place.”
Mutchler said the Roseburg VA Hospital has a regional resource agreement if more capacity is needed.
Because of the close proximity of inmates in the Douglas County Jail, administrators are already making sure precautions are being taken when bringing a prisoner into the jail.
“We’re taking everybody’s temperature, we’re asking a bunch of precautionary questions about their recent health, if they’ve had a cough, sore throat or any of those symptoms that go along with COVID-19,” Sheriff John Hanlin said.
Those who don’t display symptoms are held in quarantine for 12 to 14 days before they go into the general population. New prisoners are visited by a health care provider every day to see if any symptoms develop.
“It’s a pretty good process we have in place currently, so it wouldn’t change, if we had a surge of positive cases,” Hanlin said.”We’d continue what we’re doing.”
Hanlin said any inmate that’s brought in with any COVID-like symptoms, will be released unless they’ve committed an offense that requires them to be held.
“We’re just not introducing the possibility, we’re not even letting them in the facility,” he said.
All of the health screening happens in the sally port at the Sheriff’s Office before the prisoner is brought in the jail, so if there is a doubt that they might be infected with the virus, they are turned loose and may be asked to quarantine.
But if COVID-19 does get into the facility, the sheriff has a plan in place to deal with it.
“We would start to reduce our overall population in the facility,” Hanlin said. “The reason we do that is so we have more room to quarantine.”
But Hanlin stressed that if people need to be held, they will be, and violent offenders will not be released.
“When we started dropping the population down a couple of months ago, we were only releasing people that had a few days to a week left on their sentence,” Hanlin said.
And that’s what the Sheriff plans to do again if there is a COVID outbreak in the county.
“The last thing we want is to get COVID in the facility, both to protect inmates from getting sick, but also my staff,” he said.