Baton Rouge area hospitals are setting aside space to deal with the influx of COVID-19 patients by moving unused units and separating possibly infected patients from routine visits. Additionally, voluntary medical procedures have been canceled at all area hospitals.
The former children’s floor at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center was converted into a ward for COVID-19 patients, as was the old pediatric ICU, and a portion of the neuro and trauma center, said OLOL President and CEO Scott Wester on a press call this afternoon.
At Baton Rouge General, COVID-19 patients are on a separate floor from other patients so that nurses and doctors can conserve personal protective equipment, says Stephen Mumford, BRG’s chief operating officer.
Ochsner Health System on Wednesday also has announced plans to order additional ventilators and beds for its New Orleans area hospitals.
In the meantime, Wester says that non-COVID-19 visits to OLOL’s facilities are down by 50%, impacting the organization’s cash flow and operations. Ochsner and BRG are also reporting a significant drop in non-COVID-19 visits.
As of this afternoon, the Louisiana Department of Health reports a total of 2,300 cases in Louisiana and 105 in East Baton Rouge Parish.
Dr. Catherine O’Neal, OLOL director of infection prevention, says Baton Rouge won’t see the impact of social distancing and the closing of schools and businesses for a few weeks. The number of COVID-19 cases is expected to continue to increase for now.
“We are not at the peak yet,” O’Neal says, adding that whether or not it slows depends on how the community handles it.
Every morning leaders of Baton Rouge’s medical systems are on a phone call to discuss new developments in the pandemic. At the moment, OLOL and BRG have enough personal protective equipment, according to O’Neal and Mumford, but donations from businesses and the public are needed because it is still not known how long the epidemic could last and how bad it could get.
Other announcements made during the OLOL press call:
• The coronavirus is not like the flu, which means summer heat is unlikely to slow its path. • In an effort to get more COVID-19 tests processed, a testing center has been opened at the LSU Vet School to process results.
• Volunteers are allowed to sew and donate homemade masks to area hospitals. These will not be used by medical professionals, but for patients’ caregivers.
• Based on the latest studies, coronavirus does not appear to affect children as severely as adults, although individual cases vary widely. At the moment there are 12 pediatric COVID-19 cases in Louisiana.