Hospital workers make sacrifices for the people they serve.
“It spreads very quickly,” said Christian Lawson about the coronavirus. “We’re seeing it across the country. Nursing homes, assisted livings are just a hot bed.”
As director of emergency services for University of North Carolina (UNC) Health, Lawson works with hospital staff and confers with other hospital leaders to assess the situation and prepare accordingly. So far, the UNC Health system has set up a screening tent outside the emergency department to analyze people from their cars.
“If you don’t put measures in place to screen patients early in the workstream, you are going to potentially infect multiple people,” Lawson said.
Medical professionals ask probing questions about medical history and determine whether the person needs to be sent inside or down the road to a respiratory diagnostic center, which is a center usually within a few miles of a local UNC hospital.
“Most are tents,” Lawson said. “Some are clinics that were converted.”
Lawson said it is important to evaluate patients before they enter the walls of the hospital.
While many hospital personnel are on high alert right now, Lawson said this mode – staying in homes – “needs to continue for a couple of months at best.”
There are many models tracking the coronavirus cases, similar to hurricanes, Lawson said. UNC has its own model, as does Duke University and several others.
“If and when we ‘peak,’ people still need to stay at home,” he said. “We don’t need a resurgence.”
For now, Lawson said North Carolina does not need a field hospital like New York is using from Samaritan’s Purse.
“Our approach is to expand as much as possible within the four walls,” he said. “We look at conference rooms” and other areas of the hospital.
While it’s “far from ideal,” Lawson said the hospital is also looking at the area’s convention centers and warehouses. Not many field hospitals are available to put in place so hospitals have to seek out unused or underutilized buildings.
Lawson said the medical staff are thankful for the outpouring of personal protective equipment (PPE) items that have been donated, including more than a million medical items. Food and snacks as well as other comfort items have also been donated.
“Our teams are nervous, but I also think they are prepared,” Lawson said.
Lawson sent his 7-year-old son to live with his parents in Arkansas. At first, Lawson’s mother flew here to help as the coronavirus began to gain traction, but as the end of the pandemic extended and cases multiplied, she took the boy with her to their Arkansas home.
“We Facetime a couple of times a day,” Lawson said. “He’s much safer there than here.”For ways to help or donate, visit unchealthcare.org/coronavirus/ways-to-help. Or visit websites of your local hospital to find out how to help in your community.