Area hospitals surrounding Edwards and White Counties have had to make some serious adjustments as they prepare to fight COVID-19

Although a majority of the Novel Coronavirus cases are located in Chicago and the collar counties surrounding it, hospitals throughout the state have had to make preparations for a potential outbreak in their respective areas. Public health officials at the state level are attempting to make sure the hospitals located in a more rural setting have all the resources they need, should an outbreak occur in their area.

“So, we're keeping a close eye on that,” Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said Wednesday in a report by Capital News. “As we look right now, I think our hot spot is more northern Illinois … but we're keeping an eye on all the beds, the ICUs, the ventilators and the availability of those, and we potentially, we’ll have to do some moving of things, but we are also looking at what the needs will be there.”

The story also cited comments from Danny Chun, a spokesman for the Illinois Health and Hospital Association, stating his belief that rural hospitals throughout the state are well prepared to treat a surge of Novel Coronavirus patients if the need arises.

 “They are very prepared,” he said, citing two major trends in health care: industry consolidation over the past five to 10 years into health care “systems” that have the ability to share resources, and regional planning.

“A lot of small and rural hospitals, critical access hospitals, are now part of large systems, like OSF, HSHS, Carle, Southern Illinois Health,” Chun said.

“Then there's an existing structure within the state of Illinois — they’re called Regional Health Care Coalitions,” he added. “There are 11 coalitions throughout the state covering every area of the state, including southern and central Illinois, where all the health care providers in that region get together in terms of emergency planning, pandemic planning, emergency exercises. That's been in place for years.”

One area hospital is part of one of the health care systems noted by Chun.

“Our integration with Carle benefits patients by extending the services we offer and the quality care they receive,” said Harry Brockus, CEO of Carle Richland Memorial Hospital. “We recently launched EPIC, a new electronic health record, which helps us consult with experts at other facilities and monitor their health locally even if they are transferred to higher levels of care.

“Carle health system support also ensures greater access to patient resources including a 24-hour COVID-19 hotline and online assessment tool.”

Danielle Stevens, Executive Vice President of Business Development and Foundation at Wabash General Hospital, explained a portion of the hospital’s effort to combat the virus and the financial challenges that come with doing so after consulting with WGH President and CEO Karissa Turner and Chief Operating Officer Tamara Gould. The first thing she noted was that the cost to fight the virus is an ongoing one.

“We are still spending money daily to reconcile those at this time would be premature,” said Stevens on the cost the hospital has expended to prepare for a potential spread of COVID-19.

For the rest of the story, check out this week's Navigator.