For Parker Adventist, 'it's tough not knowing' extent of local COVID-19 spread

Hospital is accepting donations of personal protective equipment

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Parker Adventist Hospital has plenty of masks, gowns and gloves, but doctors, nurses and staff are working harder than ever preparing for the unknown.

Dr. Devin Bateman, chief medical officer at Parker Adventist Hospital, said the hospital is bracing for the worst of the COVID-19 outbreak to reach the Denver suburbs.

“We know it's going to happen,” Bateman said on March 25, “but it hasn't hit us yet.”

The hospital has tested people with COVID-19 symptoms. Only those needing hospital admission are being tested currently.

Many doctors are anticipating COVID-19 patients will at some point take up 50% of hospital beds and intensive care units, Bateman said.

Elective procedures, non-emergency surgeries scheduled in advance, have been postponed to free space. The hospital has about 30% fewer patients than is typical.

Parker Adventist and other Centura Health hospitals are moving to mitigation strategies, meaning they will only provide COVID-19 testing to those who need hospital admission, according to Centura's website Centura.org/COVID-19. The site also has details about visitor restrictions and the staff's precautionary measures.

Health care experts throughout Denver are preparing for a surge in COVID-19 patients. Douglas County instituted a stay-at-home order March 25, allowing only essential businesses to remain open. Social distancing of at least 6 feet is recommended for anyone in public. Tri-County Health reports Douglas County COVID-19 cases are on the rise.

This is just the beginning, Bateman said.

“It's a marathon, not a sprint,” he said.

The hardest part is not knowing how bad Parker's surge will be or how long it will last.

“We don't know the instances or prevalence of coronavirus in our community. We have an idea of what to expect from other countries and other states…but we don't truly know what our community prevalence is because there's a limit to the number of testing kits available, and the tests take time to turn around,” Bateman said. “It's tough not knowing exactly how widespread this is throughout the community.”

Centura hospitals are accepting donations of personal protective equipment (PPE). Centura hospitals are only accepting boxed N95 and surgical masks, packaged gowns and gloves and medical face shields.

Per guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centura hospitals do not consider homemade masks official PPE and should only be considered as a last resort, according to a March 24 news release. However, Centura is accepting homemade mask donations and want to hear from people eager to donate. Email CovidDonations@Centura.org to receive a pattern and material specifications in the event its current policy changes and the hospital begins accepting them, the release states.

“We have to be conscientious of our supply and aware of our supply. We want our people in the hospital to feel safe, but the reality across the world and in Denver is hospitals need to be careful to conserve and preserve those supplies as much as possible,” Bateman said.

Centura is actively calling on people to donate blood. Doctors are worried supply will run low in the coming weeks of stay-at-home orders, which, for now, will last until April 11.

Parker Adventist can accept food donations only if the food is prepared in a professional kitchen— catered meals only, essentially.

Information about donations can be found at Centura.org.

Bateman said Parker Adventist has been preparing for the COVID-19 outbreak for weeks. Nurses and staff are fatigued between managing the flow of patients and preparing for the outbreak.

“Operations of a hospital still continue and need to continue, so that is an opportunity for community members to step up if they want to find ways to help,” Bateman said.

His biggest message: We will get through this.

“We've seen illnesses that have created fear in the past, and we'll see other illnesses in the future. This is one the community and the state have really come together to address. There are a lot of people working on this and as a community we will get through this, it's just going to be a challenging time for the next several weeks."

Bateman asks people to mind social distancing and orders from local and state health department officials.

“We will get through this as a community and a hospital, and we'll be better on the other end,” Bateman said.

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