Hospital chief says Northwest Community is better prepared for this COVID-19 surge
The second COVID-19 wave is here, but Northwest Community Hospital is better prepared to deal with the expected influx of patients now compared to the initial surge in the spring, the hospital's chief medical officer said.
Like other suburban health care leaders, Dr. Alan Loren has been watching the rising case numbers in recent weeks and started to see more patient admissions at the Arlington Heights hospital. On Saturday, Illinois set a single-day high of 12,438 positive cases of the coronavirus, beating the previous record -- set Friday -- by 20%.
But Loren expressed confidence that Northwest Community is better positioned to handle this surge, which is climbing even faster than the initial outbreak.
"We definitely understand the virus better and how to treat it," said Loren, adding that the drug Remdesivir is more readily available, helping to decrease lengths of hospital stays.
Better treatment also has meant fewer people in the intensive care unit or on a ventilator, Loren said. Capacity in those areas is OK right now, he said, as are staffing levels.
The hospital was also able to stockpile personal protective equipment for its staff in anticipation of the second wave, Loren said.
Hospital officials are more concerned about bed capacity, as numbers continue to rise.
As of Friday, the 509-bed hospital was treating 70 patients with COVID-19 -- a number that's continued to increase in the next four weeks. It previously hovered at 10 to 12 at a time for several months following a peak of 109 in May, officials said.
Northwest Community was among the first hospitals in Illinois to treat a patient with COVID-19 in February.
To date, the hospital has treated more than 1,000 patients with the respiratory disease, but many more have been outpatients at a specialty COVID-19 clinic the health system set up in Palatine. Those with a positive COVID-19 case or symptoms can see a doctor there first, and be referred to the hospital if their condition worsens. Some have virtual follow-up visits with doctors.
Loren says the hospital has also been admitting a slightly younger population with the virus. He believes nursing homes have done a better job at containing outbreaks.
Depending on other health conditions a patient may have, one's length of stay in the hospital can vary from just a few days to several weeks, Loren said.
Like other medical professionals, Loren predicted it could take several months, if not a full year, to get the disease under control, given how long it will take to develop a vaccine and roll it out.
"It's definitely going to get worse before it gets better," said Loren, fearing increases in COVID-19 cases with more indoor gatherings over the winter. "In order to combat this disease, it really is a multifaceted approach. It's treatment, a vaccine, masking -- all of those things coming together."