Amelia Island has one hospital, Baptist Medical Center Nassau, to serve its residents. During normal times, it is sufficient, but these are not normal times as a worldwide pandemic threatens to overwhelm some medical facilities, their personnel, and their supply of personal protective equipment.
The News-Leader reached out to Ed Hubel, president of Baptist Nassau, about the hospital’s preparedness for the coronavirus and subsequent cases of COVID-19. Hubel declined to be interviewed and gave the News-Leader a statement about the hospital instead.
The local hospital president said in his statement that Baptist Nassau has been preparing for COVID-19 for months, with four areas of focus: providing care today for the community, preparing for a coming COVID-19 surge, protecting the hospital’s team, and mitigating community spread. Baptist Nassau has 64 beds, and Hubel said Baptist is “diligently working” to increase the number of acute care beds in its system, including in Nassau County.
“We understand there may be concerns related to future demand for acute care,” Hubel wrote in his email. “Keep in mind that only a portion of those hospitalized will require intensive care. Across our region, Northeast Florida hospitals (not just Baptist) have nearly 500 ICU beds in place today – but that doesn’t tell the whole story. We are diligently working to expand that number, when and where our community needs it – including here in Nassau County. Baptist Medical Center Nassau has eight ICU beds. However, this number is not reflective of the number of critically ill patients we are able to treat. We have a surge plan in place to quickly convert other hospital rooms into fully equipped ICU rooms if needed.”
A nationwide shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) has led to medical personnel sometimes working without enough N95 respirator and surgical masks, medical-grade gloves, and protective gowns, but Hubel said Baptist Nassau has enough equipment.
“We currently have enough PPE to meet the needs of our patients, team members and physicians,” his email says. “We are working with local, state and federal authorities to ensure we have the proper supply for the future.”
Hubel said Baptist Nassau has upgraded all its hospital rooms so that they have the capability to transform them into negative pressure rooms, which use a ventilation system to force out internal air, creating negative air pressure that pulls new air passively into the system from other inlets. The system is used for infection control.
Technology will also be used by the hospital to reuse masks, which has not been a standard practice until now, in order to ensure there is enough PPE for its staff.
“We are able to reuse our N95 masks through robotic disinfecting technology, which uses UV light to clean and preserve these masks, which help our team members protect themselves and others in the spread of infectious diseases like COVID-19,” Hubel said.
Additionally, the hospital is working with the community to facilitate donations of masks.
“We have established a way for the community to help, Compassion for Caregivers, which is accepting hand-sewn masks, isolation gowns, hand sanitizer and Clorox wipes along with monetary donations to help in this effort,” Hubel said. Community members can call Baptist Nassau at 321-3500 to coordinate a drive-thru drop-off time with a team member. More information can be found at baptistjax.com/covid19.
Hubel did not comment on the availability of ventilators at Baptist Nassau, although a shortage has been a concern in New York and other areas dubbed “hot spots” for COVID-19 infections.
Access to the hospital has been restricted, and all visitors will be screened and checked for fever, cough, and shortness of breath.
According to the hospital’s website, only one parent or guardian at a time is now allowed in the pediatric unit. Other children may not be brought along for the visit and may not be left unattended while the parent or guardian visits the patient. One legally designated caregiver will be allowed for a patient who is physically or mentally unable to communicate health care decisions. One spouse or partner, one designated guest, or one doula per patient will be permitted in labor and delivery.
For inpatient surgery, one person will be permitted to wait until the surgery is complete to receive word from the care team, but that person will have to leave after the surgery is complete and will not be able to visit the patient after surgery.
In the emergency department and outpatient surgery, one person may accompany and assist the patient if arriving together, but additional visitors after check-in are not permitted. The inpatient policy will apply if the patient is admitted. Two visitors will be permitted for patients in end-of-life care. Care teams will arrange visitation on a case-by-case basis.
Hubel’s statement called the coronavirus situation “extremely dynamic,” and Hubel said he would offer updates to the News-Leader about “what it takes for our hospital – and our community – to protect ourselves and be prepared for what’s ahead.”
“I am so proud of our team,” his statement says. “They are focused on our number-one priority to meet the physical and emotional needs of those we serve in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis. We’ve been here for more than 25 years and we are here to provide high-quality health care for our community throughout this crisis.”