IU Health expects virus surge ‘within a week’

Coronavirus

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — A wave of seriously ill coronavirus patients is heading toward Indianapolis hospitals, and one top doctor says its arrival is imminent.

In an interview conducted Friday by IU Health staff and just made available to FOX59 over the weekend, Dr. Steven Roumpf, medical director of emergency medicine at IU Health Methodist Hospital, said he expects the wave to crash soon.

“I expect that we are probably within a week of a surge would be my guess,” Roumpf said. “Now, having said that, Indiana has done a very very good job of getting out this idea of social distancing and self-quarantining and getting out there with early closures and schools and everything else, so I’m hoping that we blunted that a little bit.”

As of 10 a.m. Monday, the Indiana State Department of Health reported 250 positive tests for the COVID-19 virus in the state, an increase of 58 cases from the day before.

Marion County has the most positive cases with a total of 110.

“It’s a fairly shallow curve, and then it upticks steeply,” said Dr. Roumpf as he considered the statistical model for when the patient surge is expected to hit Marion County’s five big hospital chains. “Its gonna happen, and it is happening, but if we can let it happen more slowly then we’ll be able to accommodate quite a bit better. Having said that, I feel like preparatory wise we’ve done remarkably well to get where we are.”

Inside IU Health off the IUPUI campus, construction crews and hospital staff have been refiguring the layouts of rooms, offices and waiting areas in anticipation of the COVID-19 virus patient surge.

“Over the last two weeks, we’re rapidly deployed COVID screening areas within our emergency department,” said Dr. Tim Ellender, emergency medicine physician at IU Health Methodist Hospital.

“We’ve created isolation environments, changing our floor space pretty quickly into retrograde spaces to address COVID specifically. We have a screening area with eight bays that is essentially staffed by a physician or an advanced practice provider, a nurse practitioner or a physician’s assistant, and around the clock we are manning that area to address nothing but COVID related complaints and testing needs.”

Patients and families are urged to seek a doctor’s order and call ahead if they intend to enter IU Health for treatment of coronavirus symptoms.

“We started to figure out a mode to segregate patients,” said Dr. Roumpf. “And what I mean by that is, patients who come in for cold and flu like symptoms or maybe you’re concerned you’ve been in contact with somebody with COVID-19 or you’ve traveled somewhere that would put you at risk, we try to get you to a different area away from somebody who is just there for a sprained ankle or some other injury so that you’re not cross-pollinating for lack of a better word and causing COVID infection.

“We converted a portion of our emergency department,” said Dr. Roumpf. “We converted every room in there to something we call negative pressure, meaning the air is drawn into there and whatever’s in that room doesn’t escape to the outside. So we had one such prior to all this starting, and we went to eight more rooms after that event, and then we also have a decontamination space where if somebody is exposed to a toxic acid or something like that, we’d bring them through there on our way to the emergency department, and we also have that as a negative air space so that’s a potential crisis overflow point.

“As our numbers are starting to increase, we had to think a bit more forward about what we wanted to do, really separate people. Just today we’re standing up a separate triage area, and there’s a clinic area that’s just two doors down from the emergency department, and we actually put up some walls and did some separation, and we’re gonna direct patients for cold and flu or concern for COVID-19 infection directly into that space. So we’re gonna have a separate waiting room space.

“We’re converting part of our emergency department, and it was just a big open room with some beds that we use for some overflow patients, into six state of the art negative pressure resuscitation suites, and so that’s gonna be almost entirely dedicated for these patients.”

As part of his address from the statehouse Monday, Governor Eric Holcomb directed that. “The state, in conjunction with the city and all hospital systems in Marion County, has activated a comprehensive emergency operations center to maximize hospital capacity and provide joint coordination. The center is charged with tracking the inventory of all hospital beds, supplies and personnel as the number of COVID-19 patients grows.

“I am proud of our hospital systems that are participating in the initial phase of this process, Eskenazi Health, IU Health, Franciscan Health, Community Health Network, and Ascension,” said Gov. Holcomb. “Marion County is where we’ve seen the most community spread to date, but we will expand this model to other parts of the state.”

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