Hospitals prepare for the COVID-19 surge by building remote facilities

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BOONE COUNTY, Ind. — Counties across central Indiana are preparing for next week’s COVID-19 surge.

It’s requiring counties like Hancock and Boone to create remote hospitals for additional beds.

“We’re preparing for the worst and we’re praying for the best,” said Dr. Ray Ingham, president and CEO of Witham Health Services.

Both Boone and Hancock counties have been preparing for the last month as COVID-19 cases ramped up in central Indiana and the United States.

“Because we’re small, we have to be very very flexible. And what we wanted to do is take this COVID as a disease entity, if you will, and then break it down into its components. There are those that require ventilation. There are those we can fast track and home quarantine. And there are those that need intensive care but perhaps not mechanical ventilation,” said Ingham.

The counties have implemented overflow units so they can continue treating patients when they run out of space at hospitals.

In Boone County, Witham Pavilion is a remote hospital at the 4-H Fairgrounds. There are 20 beds but it can be expanded up to 100.

“What we’re hoping to do is use that facility for those that need further recovery but don’t require mechanical ventilation,” said Ingham.

At Witham Hospital, they’ve already expanded their ICU and General Psych Unit. They’ve also created a Respiratory Fast Track to get patients in and out without having to enter the emergency room.

Over in Hancock County, units have been expanded at Hancock Health. Right now they say they have enough beds, but they’re worried about what’s to come.

“On a busy day, we would have 45 to 50 beds,” said Jenn Cox, director of marketing and communications for Hancock Health.

Gateway Hancock Health is a new diagnostic facility that they’ve made a temporary overflow unit. They’re now on standby to treat COVID-19 patients if more beds are needed.

“There are 50 beds. Everyone has oxygen, it has all the electrical capabilities to run IVs and equipment. We could run ventilators out there if we needed to,” said Cox.

Both counties have created about 100 additional beds for the overflow units, but the goal is to keep their sickest patients at the hospital while keeping their warriors on the front lines protected.

“I’ve seen them struggle, I’ve seen them work tirelessly to save lives and do things and it’s extremely impressive,” said Ingham.

And the best things he suggests to continue to flatten the curve?

“Whatever you do, if you can stay home, stay home. Wash your hands until they’re red,” he said.

The hospitals say these are strictly overflow units and will only be used once they reach capacity in their counties.

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