GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Hospitals around West Michigan have started putting together plans of action in the event that the recent strain of coronavirus starts spreading stateside.
At the moment, only a handful of confirmed cases of the virus, now referred to as COVID-19, have been identified in the United States. But Tuesday, officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that spread of the virus into communities within the United States appears inevitable at this point.
But hospitals in West Michigan aren't waiting for things to get worse.
Julie Bulson, director of emergency preparedness at Spectrum Health, says the hospital has been holding meetings regarding their readiness plans for the past seven weeks.
“We’ve gone through this a couple different times with H1N1 and Ebola and we’ve really just taken our plan from previous incidents and implemented it right now,” she said Thursday afternoon. “Our infection prevention team is always watching situations like this and when they get to the point of saying 'you know, this is going to happen, we really need to connect and we really need to start planning,' we start putting our meetings on the calendar."
If you've walked into the emergency department at Spectrum recently you've probably noticed a sign asking visitors if they have had any recent international travel. If guests have been overseas in the past 14-30 days, the hospital will further screen you for possible infection.
Bulson said ultimately the goal is to isolate those who are infected.
"So if we can do anything to keep these patients at home without coming into that emergency department with that potential spread through the waiting room area, that's what we want to do," Bulson said.
So patients showing any flu-like symptoms may be seen away from others. And when possible, you may be asked to communicate with staff via telephone or computer from home.
“If they need to have labs drawn, we’ve developed a process where we can send a home health nurse out to actually draw the lab. So then again the patient doesn’t have to come in to a public environment,” Bulson said.
The most important step we can all take to help contain the virus is to maintain consistent hygiene health.
"So it's making sure that if you’re sick, you stay home, that you wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands and don’t touch your face, don’t touch your eyes, things like that. And that will help contain the diseases," Bulson said.
Mercy Health and Metro Health both say they are closely monitoring the ever-changing situation, implementing guidelines similar to Spectrum and other healthcare providers in the area. They provided the following statements regarding current preparedness efforts.
Mercy Health is closely monitoring the evolving situation related to the 2019 novel Coronavirus and updating our references and strategies in real time as we receive guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Though Mercy Health has not seen any suspected cases, we have implemented screening guidelines that will allow us to rapidly identify and isolate patients who may have novel Coronavirus.
We have a strong emergency preparedness plan in place at Metro Health – University of Michigan Health to respond to patients who may present with potential COVID-19 disease. All patients entering our hospital, emergency department and off-site locations are currently being screened regarding their recent travel history and assessed accordingly. As the CDC continues to release travel restrictions, our teams and resources are being updating as well.
Our hospital staff members are participating in daily safety briefings and our infection prevention team is working closely with the Kent County Health Department, to ensure sure we are best positioned to care for all patients and prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Visit the Centers for Disease Control website for the latest information on the virus.