The area’s only large hospital, CHA Everett (formerly the Whidden Hospital), is preparing its Emergency Department and its facility for a possible surge in patients who have contracted the COVID-19 virus, officials said this week.
Emergency Department Chief at CHA Everett, Dr. Melisa Lai-Becker, said they are preparing like many other institutions within the CHA network, and have appreciated the early outpouring from residents of the area to support them.
“CHA Everett, like all of the CHA, is taking lots of precautions like moving toward a tent for triage and taking care of our current patients as well as preparing for the surge that is expected,” she said on Monday. “In the last week, we saw a decrease in the volume of patients coming to the hospital, which is exactly what should be happening as people stay home. The community has done a really good job of realizing that if they’re looking for testing, the Emergency Department is not a place to come. For the most part, every time a test is done, we use up our Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).”
To that end, patients who now have symptoms are directed to their primary care doctor to triage how they’re feeling. Those existing patients of CHA are then directed to a drive-thru testing site at the Somerville CHA Hospital – a move that is able to test more patients who show signs and also preserves PPE equipment for the CHA Everett Emergency Department. Those who cannot drive to be tested are being sent with an appointment to the CHA Somerville clinic on Broadway.
Dr. Lai-Becker also said community members have reached out to donate surgical masks, N95 respirators and even some who have volunteered to make masks.
“We can’t thank the community enough because they are understanding that as we run low on supplies, we need to do everything possible to preserve the supply chain,” she said. “We have received many offers from people who are looking to contribute or donate PPE (which includes gloves, surgical goggles, gowns, surgical masks and N95 respirators)…Every offer is so appreciated. The community has done a great job of trying to pull together things on our behalf while they also stay at home.”
Already some of the donations have included dinner from Spinelli’s one evening last weekend, and a science teacher from KIPP Academy in Lynn donating 150 pairs of goggles and four packages of gloves that were unused at his shuttered Science classrooms.
At the CHA Everett, the facility has changed its layout, and has barred visitors from coming to the hospital this week. There are only two entrances open now, including the main entrance and the Emergency Department entrance. There are no visitors allowed, and anyone coming to an entrance has to go through a screening test. If they show any respiratory symptoms, they are given a mask and checked out more thoroughly. The hospital has also canceled all elective surgery and the endoscopy department.
“All the precautions certainly probably creates some anxiety, but at the same time it’s good to have the support of the community,” she said. “So many of the patients that have come to the ER have told us how much they appreciate us and when they tell us to stay safe, it means a lot.”
Her final message to everyone was to keep the social distancing rule in place, and to stay home. She said doing that in large numbers and with discipline will make a tremendous different in the next 10 days to two weeks in how drastically the hospitals like CHA Everett are faced with patient surges. “Please listen to the government,” she said. “Absolutely stay at home. It’s going to be a really hard thing over the next 10 days to two weeks. We’re at war with this, but doing these things will make a huge difference. If we never see a huge surge of patients, that’s all the better.”