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Inspira Health Prepares for COVID-19 Surge

The COVID-19 pandemic is a battle Inspira is waging on two fronts—using know-how today to implement new therapies to care for patients and also how to plan for the surge of patients that the predictive models indicate could be arriving at emergency departments in the days ahead.

How is Inspira preparing for the surge? The timing of when the largest number of patients arrive at our hospitals depends on how many of us continue to practice social distancing, handwashing and wearing face masks. Using a model shared with all hospitals by University of Pennsylvania, Inspira knows our worst-case scenario and our best-case scenario. Inspira spends many hours of every day preparing for that worst-case scenario.

It is their intention to double the number of beds that they currently operate, knowing that most of their hospital rooms are big enough to hold two patients and that they can take care of patients on the unfinished third floor of Inspira Medical Center Vineland, if necessary. And, there’s bed space in surgical suites because they are not performing elective surgeries.

With the full support of the Board of Trustees to spend whatever is necessary, Inspira is successfully growing an inventory of the Personal Protective Equipment (masks, gowns, plastic shields, etc.) and other resources.

For staffing, they are training nurses from closed outpatient services, and doctors’ offices to care for patients. They’ve asked recently retired nurses to return. They are acting upon every option to add to staffing.

What new ways is Inspira taking care of patients today?

Inspira Health, along with their physicians, Benjamin Negin, MD, David Kaufmann, MD, and Tami Bach, M.D., have joined a clinical trial with The Mayo Clinic. The study involves using plasma donated by recovered COVID-19 patients to treat inpatients with severe or life-threatening COVID-19.

As noted on the Mayo Clinic website, “It’s not yet known by which mechanism COVID-19 antibodies might work, but the thinking is that an infusion of convalescent plasma may boost a generalized response, known as passive immunity, until a patient develops a strong, targeted ability to fight the virus.”

Inspira has been treating high-risk COVID-19 patients with hydroxychloroquine. This drug, more than 50 years old, has been most commonly used to treat arthritis, rheumatic conditions, and malaria. Early on, Inspira pharmacists learned that this drug was helping the COVID-19 patients in China. They then acted quickly to secure enough doses in anticipation of our patients’ needs. Also, on the pharmacy front, within 24 hours of the FDA granting pharmacists temporary permission to produce alcohol-based hand sanitizer, a plan was set in motion at Inspira.

Nurses working a 12-hour shift will likely need to clean their hands more than 100 times. With the commercial sources now limited, the pharmacy team is targeted to produce 50 percent—or more—of the hand sanitizer used at Inspira.

Inspira has always known the power of healing with loved ones at patients’ bedsides. Now it isn’t safe to allow visitors. As one way to help our patients stay connected to family and friends via Facebook Messenger and Skype, they have iPads for them to borrow. They are handed to our patients with a disposable plastic sleeve.