Nash UNC Unveils New COVID Unit
By Amelia Harper
Staff Writer, Rocky Mount Telegram
Nash UNC Health Care is taking a step forward in the care of COVID patients since the recent creation of the new specialized COVID unit.
While not all Twin Counties COVID patients are hospitalized at Nash UNC Health Care, a significant portion are. The hospital also treats some COVID patients from Halifax, Wilson, Northampton and Franklin counties, said Dorsey Tobias, executive director for marketing, communications and strategy for the hospital.
Nash UNC Health Care has been playing an active role in COVID care for the Twin Counties and beyond. As of Wednesday, 15 COVID patients were hospitalized at the facility. Five of those patients were in critical care, Tobias said.
The hospital also has been active in testing patients.
“We have tested 5,279 patients for COVID since the start of the pandemic. So far, 356 of those have confirmed positive, and we have admitted 138 of those to the hospital. We have treated 51 of the 138 in our critical care units,” Tobias said Wednesday.
Hospital officials expect to treat roughly 40 COVID inpatients a day before the worst is over. To prepare for that, Nash UNC Health Care recently opened a special unit to deal with these patients.
“Hospitals across the nation have been faced with the unique challenge of rapidly developing a COVID care plan due to the current spread occurring across the globe,” Lee Isley, president and CEO of Nash UNC Health Care, said in a recent email interview. “Each hospital handles a COVID care plan differently, with Nash wanting to focus on creating the best possible care environment for this patient population. As such, our board of commissioners felt it was important to invest in our facility so we could best care for COVID patients in an environment that is optimal for both patients and staff.”
At a price tag of $1.3 million, the new COVID unit is designed to meet the needs of medically stable COVID patients. Patients with more serious needs will continue to be cared for in critical care units.
“The COVID unit is located on the second floor of Nash General Hospital in a separate area from where we treat our general patient population,” Tobias said.
The rooms are designed to have “negative pressure” if they house patients with communicable diseases such as COVID. Negative pressure rooms are utilized as an infection control measure to ensure communicable disease is not spread through heating, ventilation or HVAC systems, Tobias said.
“The negative pressure rooms have a lower air pressure inside the rooms. This allows air to come into the room, but any air passing out of the room must pass through a filter. Providing negative pressure rooms to help care for COVID patients and mitigate potential spread is above and beyond the current care guidelines established by the CDC,” she said.
The renovation of the second floor to create the COVID unit resulted in the creation of 32 total negative pressure rooms, Tobias said. But the rooms have other special features as well.
“The upfit includes upgraded exhaust and supply grills, along with individual dampers/terminal units installed in each room to maintain negative pressure and installation of a permanent ante room for donning/doffing PPE, integrated blinds/windows on patient room doors, nurse call, telemetry and other miscellaneous upgrades,” she said.
When the COVID crisis eventually winds down, the unit still will be a valuable asset to patient care, Tobias said.
“Due to the negative pressure rooms and other upgrades previously outlined, the entire unit is specifically designed and equipped to care for patients with various types of communicable disease, including but not limited to COVID,” she said. “While it will solely be used for COVID for now, the unit can be used to treat patients with other communicable diseases such as flu, measles, Hepatitis A and B and others in the future should that need arise.”
Isley said the creation of the new unit is part of the hospital’s commitment to improving health care in the area.
“Nash UNC is committed to providing a safe and clean facility for our community to receive the superior quality health care they deserve, even in the midst of the pandemic. Our investment in a state-of-the-art COVID unit was done with the safety of our patients, staff and community in mind,” he said.