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Hospital Officials Provide Update


Last updated 4/1/2020 at 5:24pm

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Transylvania Regional Hospital’s (TRH) CEO Michele Pilon and Mission Health Chief Medical Officer William Hathaway held a tele-forum Tuesday evening and discussed contingency plans for TRH, changes within the Mission Health System and the region’s current rate of COVID-19 illness.

Mission Health had been joining Buncombe County press conferences daily to give updates to the Asheville area on the hospital’s readiness, and Tuesday night’s meeting was the first to focus directly on TRH.

In conjunction with county officials, TRH and Mission Health are working out “surge planning” for TRH, which will include adding 29 patients beds to the current number of beds, putting the total number of patient beds in the event of a patient surge at 59, according to Pilon. Pilon said the surge plan would give TRH nine critical care beds.

Pilon and Hathaway also said TRH will be erecting a tent outside of the emergency department (ED) on Friday.

“That tent will strictly be used to triage ED patients, if we need,” Pilon said.

Hathaway said the tent is mainly a precaution. He believes the Mission Health System has enough capacity at the moment to deal with illness at “well over 1,000 beds total.”

The current protocol is for the sickest patients to be transported to Mission Hospital in Asheville, and there is a possibility that if patient surge is especially taxing, Mission will consider shifting less ill patients to sister facilities throughout the region, according to Hathaway.

Hathaway said the Western North Carolina region, thankfully, is behind the rest of the country in the number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals.

“We are behind the curve in terms of the up rise of the number of patients in our region, and that is a blessing because of a couple of things,” Hathaway said. “One, it hasn’t overwhelmed our health system, and, number two, it’s allowed us to put in a number of measures – social measures in place that are designed to help us, and, I’m sure, I hope you’ve all have heard this phrase, flatten the curve.”

Hathaway also provided updates on the hospitals changing policies around testing for the virus.

“A great deal of time and energy has been spent talking about testing for this virus, and you’re probably aware that our recommendations and our guidances across the board about testing has been just highly varied,” said Hathaway. “We went from a point where we were trying to test as many people as possible, to get an idea where the virus was, to a period now, where frankly the testing rec-ommendations are almost in a polar opposite direction…At least today, we’re recommending testing only patients who have illness warranting a consideration of hospitalization, and that people with mild to moderate symptoms should stay isolated, go home, quarantine for two weeks and not have contact with other people.”

Hathaway said the hospital does not have a lot of tests available right how, and that it requires the consumption of personal protective equipment, that the hospital would rather conserve in the event that it has to deal with many COVID-19 patients in the future. Patients with mild respiratory symptoms should be fine “riding out” the illness at home, Hathaway said.

With the advent of new and rapid COVID-19 testing being approved by the FDA, Hathaway said he thinks the guidance on testing “will change dramatically in the future.”

Hathaway also said the hospital system is working rapidly to develop testing capabilities within their own laboratories, hopefully, within the next seven to 14 days.

Both Pilon and Hathaway said they believed Mission had enough personal protective equipment to keep their employees safe.

Pilon also provided the following updates of new policies implemented at TRH and throughout Mission hospitals:

•Universal masking is now in place. All employees in patient care areas will be wearing masks, and employees who do not work in patient care areas will also wear masks if their jobs require them to be closer than 6 feet with other people.

•Elective surgeries are cancelled. Pilon said it is up to the surgeon to decide whether a surgery is really needed or not, and the hospital is asking the surgeries that can wait to wait.

•Employee screening is now in place. Employees are being screened with a series of questions and will have their temperatures taken. Anyone running a fever of over 100 degrees will be referred to a physician.

•As previously reported, the hospital is no longer allowing visitors, except for the parent of a pediatric patient.

•Access points to the hospital are now limited to the ED entrance and the registration entrance.

•The cafeteria is no longer offering self-serve food and is now providing grab and go options.

•Physician clinics are now doing virtual clinic visits.

•Radiology testing is limited to only the patients with the highest need.


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