Hospital Task Force Ensures Effective COVID Responseoperations

Like many hospitals across the globe, Nash UNC Health Care had to quickly change its operations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. To ensure a safe environment while providing high quality health care services for the community, Nash UNC developed a specific care plan for COVID patients, while putting precautions in place to reduce the risk of exposure to the virus for other patients, visitors and Nash UNC staff.

“Navigating such a major change in operations and processes in a short timeframe requires a commitment to patient care, steadfast leadership and exceptional teamwork,” said L. Lee Isley, president and CEO of Nash UNC Health Care. “Countless Nash UNC team members demonstrated these principles and more when the hospital was faced with the rapidly changing health care environment created by COVID.”

Jason Brand, executive director of Life Safety and Plant Operations for Nash UNC, spearheaded a COVID task force that was formed to help guide the hospital through the pandemic.

“The task force is a team comprised of operations staff leaders, medical staff and interdisciplinary representatives from across the organization to develop processes, policies and plans that help ensure we are operating safely while providing high quality care for COVID and non-COVID patients,” explained Brand.

The task force was instrumental in developing a COVID care plan that outlined safe protocols based on guidelines and recommendations from the CDC, UNC Health and state officials. Part of the COVID care plan included a major overhaul of the Nash General Hospital second floor, which is now the hospital’s unit for treating medically-stable COVID patients.

“Each hospital handles a COVID care plan differently, with Nash wanting to focus on creating the best possible care environment for all, including COVID patients,” said Isley. “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.”

The new unit is specifically designed to treat patients with communicable disease, including COVID, and has 32 total negative pressure rooms. The up-fit includes upgraded exhaust and supply grills, individual dampers and terminal units installed in each room to maintain negative pressure, installation of a permanent ante room (for donning/doffing PPE), integrated blinds/windows on patient room doors, Nurse Call, telemetry and other pertinent medical upgrades.

Negative pressure rooms are an infection control measure that ensures communicable disease does not spread through heating or ventilation systems. Negative pressure rooms allow 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 reduce the risk of potential spread is above and beyond the current care guidelines established by the CDC.

“The operations team worked tirelessly to completely overhaul our second floor and turn it into a state-of-the-art COVID unit. I am proud of their teamwork and dedication to patient and staff safety. While it is currently being used for treatment of COVID patients only, it is possible for us to use this space beyond the pandemic since it is specifically designed and equipped to care for patients with various types of communicable disease,” Brand stated.

The task force and operations team have also teamed up with the environmental services team (EVS) to ensure other precautions, such as rigorous cleaning and sanitizing of the hospital, remain an integral part of Nash UNC’s operations plan. While Nash UNC has always been committed to superior cleaning measures, new technology such as UV light cleaning have been implemented during the pandemic.

“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 this pandemic,” Isley stated. “We want the community to know that it is safe to come here. We have a strong plan and resources in place to manage COVID while using the proper precautions needed to keep all of our patients, visitors and staff safe while in our care.”