BALTIMORE (WJZ) – The University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health declared a hospital disaster at Upper Chesapeake Medical Center in Bel Air on Friday, citing a recent explosion of COVID-19 patients.
The healthcare system said it was switching to crisis-standard care protocols at Bel Air Hospital to meet demand for care after the hospital saw COVID-19 cases increase by 733% in over the past four weeks.
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“This is a critical response to a dynamic situation, it is not a decision that we have taken lightly and it is a decision that was made after exhausting all other avenues to resolve the issues. that challenge our operations, “said Chief Medical Officer Dr Fermin Barrueto.
The extraordinary measure comes as the healthcare system has seen infections at UCMC and UM Harford Memorial in Havre de Grace increase by 458% over the past month.
“We have seen an unprecedented increase in our volume of COVID,” Dr Barrueto told WJZ.
After Maryland reached 1,500 COVID-19 patients on Thursday, hospitals statewide were ordered to launch their pandemic plans, which involve maximizing bed space to make room for a possible increase in the number of patients.
The establishment of crisis protocols is intended to help the hospital manage an influx of patients. The change could include adjusting surgical schedules to prioritize those who need it most, pivoting staff and simplifying documentation.
“This allows us to continue to stretch our staff,” Barrueto said. “This allows us to use unconventional staff to be able to support our nurses. It also helps us set expectations for the community that business is not business as usual. “
As of Friday, there were 74 COVID-19 patients between the two hospitals, which Barrueto said also face staff shortages.
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“We have a very tired staff after battling this bug for two years,” he said. “On top of that, we ask them to do more or give longer hours, to work on holidays and weekends. It has been a challenge and it has been a marathon.
Other hospitals are also in difficulty. In Baltimore, health officials said this week that hospitals were nearing capacity and hospitalizations had risen 185% over the past month.
Gov. Larry Hogan said on Tuesday he expects the number of hospitalizations to surpass 2,000 soon.
“While we would expect it to peak between mid-January and the end of January, this is usually around the time we also have the peak of influenza season, which puts additional strain on our system. health, ”said the governor.
Lyle Sheldon, president and CEO of UM Upper Chesapeake Health, said the healthcare system is doing everything in its power to support its workforce in light of their toll during the pandemic.
“Members of our team at UM Harford Memorial Hospital (UM HMH) are also affected and stretched to near crisis levels. We are monitoring this situation very carefully to take the same action if necessary, ”said Sheldon.
Dr David Marcozzi, professor of medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and UMMS COVID-19 incident commander, said all UMMS hospitals are working to reduce by 20 % the number of surgeries they perform.
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“While UM UCH may be the first in Maryland to officially implement [Crisis Standards of Care protocols], they will not be the last, ”said Dr Marcozzi.