We at Lakewood Health System are learning so much as we continue to prepare for the COVID-19 pandemic. We regularly do drills and other activities throughout the year to prepare for emergency situations like this, but there are some things you can’t adequately anticipate or plan for until you are in the midst of it.
The shortage of testing and the speed of getting test results has been a major barrier for us, as well as so many others across the state. A significant portion of testing is still reserved for high-risk patients, individuals in congregate living settings, health care and emergency workers as well as sick patients (identified by their healthcare provider). Receipt of testing results also varies, but it is getting better. We know community members want to be tested, just as businesses are requesting testing for their employees, but limited access to testing materials does not make that possible at this point. There is a lot of work going on state- and nation-wide to address this as soon as possible. For example, Mayo Clinic is developing a test that can identify antibodies specific to the virus that causes COVID-19 to determine if someone has already been infected and recovered from it. The test can help determine how widespread the virus is and identify potential plasma donors whose plasma could then be used to help treat others.
Access to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as masks, gloves and gowns is also limited and use of these supplies must be prioritized to preserve it for those who need it the most. Thanks to the fabulous community response for sewing reusable masks, we now have masks for all staff members and anyone entering our facilities.
Access to medical equipment (primarily ventilators, oxygen and other key equipment) and hand sanitizer has also been rationed and continues to be limited. However, innovative organizations around the country are reconfiguring their businesses to make and distribute these products. For example, local distilleries are using their equipment in new ways to figure out how to make hand sanitizer products.
The lack of resources may not be reassuring, but it is important to know the truth and reality of the situation. The limitations are obviously not ideal, but there is work being done around the clock to improve the situation. Until then, state and federal agencies are setting guidelines of how scarce resources are to be used, as well as actions being taken to address these barriers.
Social distancing has been put in place to give us time to prepare, and it’s working. We have several surge plans in place for the hospital and care center, received additional supplies, and are working as a team with hospitals state-wide to learn and share best practices with each other. Fortunately, we had this planning done early, as Lakewood confirmed our first positive COVID-19 cases last week.
The resiliency and responsiveness of the American public is incredible, and we cannot thank our local citizens enough for bringing forward needed PPE and helping make masks. We will learn and grow from this, and it will result in everyone being more prepared in the future. Our coming together to fight this pandemic will make us stronger individuals and communities.