Dr. Andy Artenstein, chief academic officer, chief physician executive, incident commander for COVID-19 response, and RN Nancy Shendell-Falik, Medical Center president and senior vice president of hospital operations for Baystate Health (both members of the Baystate Health president's cabinet), answered questions about Baystate's preparedness and response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
What is incident command?
"Incident command" is a way to manage disasters in an organized, non-chaotic way, says Dr. Artenstein. Incident command includes communication, epidemic tracking, staffing, finance, and much more. Incident command team members at Baystate Health communicate throughout the day, every day, including updating all employees with essential information daily.
What has Baystate Health done to prepare for the surge?
“We’ve come together as a community using all of Baystate Health resources,” says Nancy Shendell-Falik. "We recognize that our patients need different levels of care." We expanded emergency care at Baystate Medical Center, and looked at beds and other resources across Baystate Health.
So far, Baystate has plans in place to increase critical care beds by almost 150 and to increase general acute beds by almost 350. Shendell-Falik goes on to explain that "beds do not care for patients," so the team also looked at staffing, and created plans to handle the expected surge while keeping staff and patients safe.
How can we get ahead of the virus before patients end up in the hospital?
“The most important way to ‘stay ahead of the curve’ is to test, test early, and test often, says Dr. Artenstein. We’re now able to run hundreds of tests a day, with turnaround times of a few hours to 24 hours – a significant improvement from a few weeks ago.
Doctors at Baystate have been “modeling”—looking at what the epidemic might look like in our region—since the virus first began to break out in the United States. Our team studied data from international experts and renowned academic institutions to get an understanding of what to expect.
Monitoring Vulnerable Populations
“Social distancing is probably having a favorable impact” says Dr. Artenstein, and we need to “stay ahead of the curve” by tracking disease where our most vulnerable patients are. Dr. Artenstein emphasizes the importance of testing, diagnosis, and isolation for sick and vulnerable patients.
Following Public Health Guidelines
Artenstein urges the public to continue taking precautions. "I’d like to remind folks of how we can continue to have success. One of the most important things we can do is continue to pay attention to the recommendations of our national and state public health authorities and use tried and true public health interventions."
Frequent hand washing with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer
- Social distancing (staying at least 6 feet apart, limiting settings where you are around other people)
“Because of you, we are ready to care for the patients that need us.” – Nancy Shendell-Falik
Thank you, Baystate Health team members, for your commitment, dedication, hard work, and service to the community!