Medicine

UW Medicine to begin putting into place surge plans amid COVID-19 outbreak

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UW Medicine is beginning to put into place its surge plans as the COVID-19 outbreak continues to put a strain on hospitals across the country.

The plan, which is expected to be in place by April 1, involves separating “low acuity ambulatory patients with respiratory illness symptoms” from other patients. When patients exhibiting those symptoms get to UW Medicine hospitals’ emergency departments, they will be directed to a tent outside of the emergency department.

In the expanded area, these patients will receive an evaluation and will then be treated, discharged or sent to either another site or a place in the hospital. Each hospital is also “developing architectural plans to modify interior spaces in the emergency departments to provide safe care for patients with respiratory illnesses,” UW Medicine said in a news release.


“We are confident that our surge plans will enable us to scale up our capacity to treat increasing numbers of patients with COVID-19 symptoms while also preserving our resources to care for patients with other critical injuries or illnesses in our emergency departments.”

Dr. Steve Mitchell, medical director of the Emergency Department at Harborview Medical Center, said added capacity means hospitals will be able to expand the number of patients they are able to see.

“Surge is when we have a significant increase in demand especially from similar complaints as we anticipate with COVID-19,” he said. “We are all building a space to meet the demand of that respiratory illness that comes along with COVID-19.”

The COVID-19 outbreak has left local hospitals struggling to meet the need and get enough supplies to fight the virus. The Washington State Department of Health activated its volunteer drive earlier this week to get more volunteer health practitioners to serve people amid the outbreak.

As of Wednesday, the Washington State Department of Health reported 2,580 confirmed cases of COVID-19 across the state, including 132 deaths.

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