2 major Chicago hospitals prep for overflow of patients

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CHICAGO — Two Chicago hospitals and health care systems are preparing for a potential overflow of patients.

Rush University Medical Center is preparing its emergency room.

Dr. Dino Rumoro, chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine, said starting Friday, the Brennan Pavilion will be closed to the public, as its converted into a treatment area for non-COVID 19 patients.

Screens will be placed around the portable hospital beds mimicking a patient room with oxygen and other medical equipment.

The space will include 12 beds and 20 recliner chairs and will treat patients with minor trauma like those needing stitches or doctor evaluation for other non-flu like symptoms and pain.

More serious emergencies will still go to the ER, and the ambulance bay area has been converted with tents to screen suspected COVID-19 patients.

So far, doctors say between 10-15 coronavirus patients have been hospitalized, with dozens more tested and released — those now recovering at home.

Rumoro said they are cautiously optimistic right now and believe social distancing and the stay-at-home order may have been issued at just the right time — in the last four days doctors seeing a flattening of the curve. Rumoro said they are not seeing the number of new cases rising as sharply as they thought it could.

When asked if Chicago could see what’s happening right now in New York he said they have been cautionary optimistic that the city may be able to avoid that scenario.

Inside Rush, because non-essential surgeries are not happening right now, doctors say they can also use operating rooms for patient treatment.

Also starting Friday, the University of Chicago Medical Center will bring back staff who have been off of work after potential exposure to COVID-19.

Faculty and staff who were previously furloughed after potential exposure to the virus and who are asymptomatic will return.

UChicago Medical Center is putting a universal masking policy into place.

The policy “requires all personnel (clinical or otherwise) to wear some type of facemask when working on the medical campus which reduces the risk of transmission from staff who may be carrying the disease but asymptomatic,” a statement said.

Nurses, doctors and other staff caring for patients with respiratory illnesses will be using surgical masks and N95 respirators.

UChicago Medical Center said COVID-19 is too widespread now and the furlough policy “no longer provides the right level of protection for patients and other staff.”

The hospital said any employee who has respiratory symptoms, influenza-like illness or a fever will not return to work.

Any staff that has tested positive for COVID-19 will remain at home until they are cleared to return.

“Because the disease continues to spread in our community, we must assume anyone can be exposed at any time and are expecting a surge of infected patients in the coming days,” Kenneth S. Polonsky, MD, executive vice president for medical affairs, said in a statement.

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