While there are currently no confirmed cases of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) in New Hanover County or the surrounding area, New Hanover Regional Medical Center (NHRMC) is prepared to respond if the epidemic reaches our area.
A multidisciplinary team led by NHRMC’s Infection Prevention and Control Department has been working for weeks to develop a specific plan for COVID-19 and for years on general plans for dealing with infectious diseases.
Those plans have been put in place during past outbreaks such as SARS in 2003 or Ebola in 2014. These outbreaks never spread to southeastern North Carolina, but the work to prepare NHRMC were good exercises in emergency preparedness for the team.
The team from NHRMC routinely runs preparedness exercises and has successfully put those plans into action during real situations such as Hurricane Florence.
For NHRMC, there are many parallels between preparing for a natural disaster and preparing for an outbreak liked COVID-19.
- Communication: In both situations it is important to open lines of communication with local, state, and national organizations who are also responding. It is also important to communicate with staff and the community to ensure that everyone has the most up-to-date information about the situation as it develops.
- Supplies: During a Hurricane, NHRMC gathers supplies so that patients and staff are able to shelter in place throughout the storm. In the event that NHRMC needed to treat patients with COVID-19-like symptoms, supplies would be needed to keep patients in isolation and allow staff to care for them safely. If plans are enacted in the community that include social distancing, NHRMC will need to have supplies to support staff and patient needs during that period. Our Materials Management Department has already increased purchase of the supplies needed to handle an outbreak like COVID-19.
- Patient Care: Being prepared to care for patients through a storm and during an epidemic means keeping current patients safe, continuing with normal operations where possible, and being ready to accept new patients as needed.
- Employee Support: Staff safety is of the utmost importance to NHRMC. During a storm, sheltering in place is a huge part of keeping employees safe. During an outbreak, ensuring that employees have proper equipment and training employees to use that equipment correctly will help keep employees from contracting the virus.
With all this practice and important lessons learned from past community events, NHRMC comes into the COVID-19 outbreak well prepared.
NHRMC is ready if we need to quarantine potentially infected individuals. The facility has 52 negative pressure isolation rooms which are specially designed to prevent the spread of diseases like COVID-19. There are also plans that will allow NHRMC to help isolate more people in other hospital areas if the need arises.
NHRMC’s preparation for COVID-19 also includes our non-clinical staff. Members of our materials management team are ensuring that the health system has an adequate supply of masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) available to staff who will be caring for patients exposed to COVID-19.
Preparation also includes our EMS teams or other professionals who may be required to help transport potentially infected individuals. In addition to specific protocols designed to protect individuals who are transporting patients from infection, NHRMC has a number of specially designed transport units that keep diseases like COVID-19 contained during patient transport.
NHRMC is accustomed to handling patients who are being cared for in isolation. These precautions and infection prevention practices are a standard aspect of health system operation.
Everyone who works at NHRMC from our dietary and environmental services employees to our clinical staff will be ready to care for our community if the need arises.
You can help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus and keep yourself healthy from this and other respiratory illnesses using the following tips:
The team from NHRMC will continue its diligent preparation and constant monitoring of the COVID-19 outbreak. For updates and detailed information from the NHRMC team, please visit nhrmc.org/coronavirus.
- Wash your hands frequently. Here are tips for how to wash your hands effectively: https://www.nhrmc.org/blog/2020/03/the-case-for-washing-your-hands
- Cover your mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, then throw the tissue away.
- Stay home and avoid contact with others when you are sick.
- If you traveled to an area with active COVID-19 infections within the last few weeks and are experiencing symptoms, please contact your healthcare provider or the NC Coronavirus Helpline at 866-462-3821. Contact any urgent care, walk-in clinic, or other healthcare provider’s office prior to arrival so staff can enact safety precautions during your visit.