Swedish Medical Center gears up for surge in COVID-19

Hospital executive believes facility will have enough staff and equipment

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Swedish Medical Center Emergency Medical Director Dylan Luyten wears multiple hats for the Englewood hospital. Luyten, who has been with Swedish since 2003, works both clinically and administratively for the hospital. He is involved in general hospital preparation, emergency medical services preparation and is the president elect of the medical staff for the hospital.

As Luyten and the rest of the Swedish Medical Center staff waits for more patients with COVID-19 to come in, the hospital has already seen over 30 suspected cases of the virus as of March 25 — but that number is always changing due to how long it takes to test patients.

“We end up having lots of people who we think have COVID-19, but we just don't know. The vast majority we deal with are discharged,” said Luyten. “They are well, they don't have to be in the hospital, and they are not being admitted because most people will just have mild symptoms.”

Luyten says the hospital has the proper amount of staffing needed to assist patients. With elective surgeries like hip replacements and non-emergency medical procedures being prohibited in the state until April 14 to preserve hospital equipment, more of Swedish Medical Center's staff will be ready to take care of patients who are suffering from the novel coronavirus infection.

“One of the biggest challenges is going to be keeping providers safe and not getting sick. We keep a close eye on that,” said Luyten. “We have had providers who have tested positive for COVID-19 but we have not seen a meaningful impact on our workforce. But we will keep a close eye.”

Swedish Medical Center has launched plans that look at everything involved with patient care, including physician and nursing staff, ventilators, oxygen delivery capacity, intensive care unit beds, IV fluids and housekeeping resources. Luyten says the hospital has enormous resources in its intensive care units and its ventilators.

Swedish Medical Center is part of the HCA Healthcare operator of health care facilities and because of that, it has access to extensive resources in terms of mobilizing ventilators, Luyten said.

“Having said that, we are worried about the stress on the systems. Our numbers people tell us we probably have most of the ventilators we need — but we still need more,” said Luyten.

He added that the biggest problem the hospital is going to face is related to availability of personal protective equipment (PPE). The World Health Organization warned of a severe disruption to the global supply of PPE in a March 3 release. Luyten said the hospital is actively managing its PPE supply, and said because it is part of HCA Healthcare, it is well positioned for access to the equipment. He says he doesn't believe Swedish Medical Center will run out of PPE.

In preparation of a surge of patients, the hospital is setting up alternative care models like a double-wide trailer in front of its emergency room. The trailer was placed in the event that Swedish Medical Center's emergency room were to be overrun with patients. The hospital also has dedicated units for COVID-19 patients.

Luyten speculates that Denver metro area hospitals and health-care systems will be just as busy as those in Seattle because of similarities in demographics.

“We're seeing that they are busy, their intensive care units are full. They're not overwhelmed, they're not collapsing, and they're not running out of ventilators,” said Luyten. “We hope they are about two weeks ahead of us (in terms of COVID-19 cases). We just don't know where we are going to be, but I think we'll be like Seattle. We'll be full stressed, but we'll be able to manage it. But it is all speculation.”

Luyten said on March 25 that analytic workers at the state and hospital believe Colorado is still a couple of weeks away from a real surge in COVID-19 cases — the time when Swedish Medical Center expects to be at full capacity. The hospital has 408 inpatient beds, 60 intensive care unit beds and 45 beds in the emergency department.

Luyten believes there is a misperception that hospitals are overwhelmed and added he is worried there are residents not going to the hospital because they fear of getting sick.

“One of the concerns is, COVID-19 interferes with people who need routine care because all the attention is on the pandemic. Right now, we have no idea how many people have COVID-19,” said Luyten. “But we know its 100 times if not 1,000 times (the number of reported cases) because testing is so limited. We will never begin to have as many confirmed cases as there are cases just by the nature of testing.”

Even though he admits that there is a sense of anxiety, Luyten says Swedish Medical Center's employees are engaged, inspired and ready to help those who may suffer from the virus.

“This is what we train for. This is a historic event that I think most of us agree that we will look back on later in our lives and a time when we were in the middle of an international pandemic — and we played a role in it,” said Luyten.

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