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Dignity Health preparing for potential COVID-19 patient surge

Dignity Health, Health Net: No agreement made
Posted at 4:47 PM, Nov 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-20 20:25:42-05

As hospitals prepare for a potential surge of COVID-19 patients in the coming weeks, one hospital system's preemptive measures are becoming visible.

ABC15 learned Friday that Chandler Regional Medical Center is setting up 'emergency tents' that would be used for triage, as part of Dignity Health's emergency preparedness plans. St. Joseph's will do so on Monday.

On Friday, ABC15 spoke with Chief Medical Officer Dr. Keith Frey, who is with Dignity Health in Arizona which has six hospitals across Maricopa County.

"I'm quite concerned," he said of current COVID-19 conditions around the state. "I think that's shared by all the healthcare professionals across the state of Arizona."

Dr. Frey said the number of coronavirus patients has been increasing over the past 6-8 weeks. He said they currently do have the capacity, but it's a metric they watch on nearly an hourly basis. He said Dignity Health has not gotten to a point of postponing elective surgeries.

"We're on top of this," Dr. Frey said. "We feel like we can handle anything that comes at us but we continue to be concerned that if the public isn't following all the public health guidelines, that we could get overwhelmed if we're not careful."

He told ABC15 they currently have sufficient staffing, but are looking to hire more nurses. This week, models compiled by a group of Arizona researchers show hospitals around the state could become severely stressed in December.

Dr. Frey told ABC15 they did not have to utilize crisis standards of care during the Summer surge.

"We did not get to the full crisis level, we were just under it," he said. "We are hoping that we can manage the demand that is coming at us without having to go to that but it could very well happen, particularly with the holiday weekend next weekend and if folks don't follow the guidelines that the Governor's office put out this week, which we fully support, we could have some real difficulty."

Like other healthcare systems, Dignity Health is also modifying its visitor policy.

  • Dignity Health Arizona General Hospital Laveen is allowing one adult visitor per patient for non-COVID-19 patients, and general visitation hours are between 4 and 8 p.m.
  • Dignity Health Arizona General Hospital Mesa is allowing one adult visitor per patient for non-COVID-19 patients per day.
  • Dignity Health Chandler Regional and Mercy Gilbert Medical Centers are allowing one adult visitor per patient for non-COVID-19 patients per day.
  • Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center, and Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Westgate Medical Center are allowing one adult visitor per patient for non-COVID-19 patients between the hours of 4 and 8 p.m.