'It's totally safe to come to the hospital': Edward, Elmhurst managing pandemic
The two West suburban hospitals in the Edward-Elmhurst Health system continue to have enough capacity in both beds and ventilators to manage the number of COVID-19 patients they are seeing, leaders said Wednesday during a virtual town hall.
Edward Hospital in Naperville and Elmhurst Hospital together were treating a total of 115 admitted patients with confirmed cases of the coronavirus Wednesday. The system already has treated 370 others, including 319 who have been discharged and 51 who died from the virus, said Dr. Sanjeeb Khatua, chief physician executive and COVID-19 incident commander.
The hospitals continue to effectively manage the spread of infections within their facilities, CEO Mary Lou Mastro said, and remain safe for anyone who needs treatment of critical health needs.
"If you need to come to the hospital, it is safe. We are here, we stand prepared and ready to take care of you as we always have," Mastro said. "We have safety protocols designed and executed nearly perfectly to prevent infections from spreading from one patient to the next. It's totally safe to come to hospital. It's not safe to ignore symptoms that are problematic."
As patient treatment is in progress, the system is preparing its laboratory to begin antibody testing as soon as possible. The lab, one of only two in-house labs at hospitals across Illinois, expects to receive the materials needed for antibody testing next week, said Dr. Alvaro Candel, anatomic and clinical pathologist and chairman of the pathology department at Elmhurst Hospital. Testing could begin as early as a week after the materials are on hand, he said.
Antibody testing, he said, detects substances in a person's blood that show evidence they have been exposed to the COVID-19 virus. It differs from molecular testing, already in progress at Edward and Elmhurst hospitals, which serves to detect the presence of the COVID-19 virus in the body.
With 115 total coronavirus patients, Mastro said, the hospitals are operating at roughly 60% capacity as projections show cases in Illinois have not yet hit their peak.
Patients who have or are suspected to have COVID-19 are placed into their own rooms in isolation with negative air flow to help protect them and the staff members who treat them, Khatua said.
Doctors and nurses are working to limit the number of times they visit each infected patient's room and are dressing in gowns, gloves, goggles and masks, washing their hands before and after stepping into the room each time, said Dr. Jonathon Pinsky, medical director of infection control and prevention at Edward Hospital.
Nurses are reusing N95 masks to preserve personal protective equipment that hospital officials said is in short supply. After each shift, workers are carefully sterilizing the masks and nurses are instructed to discard them if they become "compromised," said Liana Plotke, director of patient care and critical care at Elmhurst Hospital.
To support the well-being of workers, the hospitals have created quiet rooms for rest and relaxation so they can pause to breathe in aromatherapy scents and watch guided meditations, Plotke said. Staff members also can recharge with on-site emotional support from Linden Oaks Behavioral Health and with plenty of food donations the community is providing every day, Mastro said.