By Jacqueline Pitts, The Bottom Line
Three of Kentucky’s leading hospitals say because of early action by the governor and all Kentuckians to flatten the curve of the COVID-19 pandemic, they have reached a point where they have the capacity needed to deal with the virus. As the state’s economy begins to reopen, the facilities are ready to deal with any issues the state may face in treating this disease while also bringing the rest of the healthcare system back online across the commonwealth.
A panel of top health care professionals combating the coronavirus on the front lines discussed with businesses across the state Monday what comes next in the COVID-19 pandemic as part of the Kentucky Chamber’s “Restart Kentucky” initiative. Panelists included St. Elizabeth Healthcare President and CEO Garren Colvin, Pikeville Medical Center CEO Donovan Blackburn, and Baptist Health CEO Gerard Colman with Aetna Better Health of Kentucky CEO Jonathan Copley serving as the moderator of the discussion.
As elective procedures have been halted as part of the measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, hospitals have seen far fewer hospitalizations coupled with a steep decline in revenue because people are scared to come into facilities to get the care they need. Colvin said in northern Kentucky, St. Elizabeth’s four facilities across the region are currently at 35 percent capacity. He stated they have designated their Fort Thomas facility as a space to cater to patients that test positive for COVID-19, and they have around 200 isolation rooms ready to utilize as well as the capacity to deal with all other healthcare needs.
In many areas across the state, hospitals are the No. 1 employer in the region. That is the case at Pikeville Medical Center, where CEO Blackburn says they have seen very few positive cases of the virus and a struggle to get timely testing results. ”A hospital employee often has to literally drive the tests one of the state’s larger cities to get results,” Blackburn said. Meanwhile, Pikeville Medical Center, as well as the other hospitals, have worked hard to develop surge plans and gather enough personal protective equipment (PPE) to prepare for what comes next.
Baptist Health CEO Colman said testing continues to be one of the state’s biggest challenges. He said an individual’s test results are only good for a short amount of time, as they could get the virus soon after or the test could have provided a false negative. Because of this, Colman said as the state goes through summer and fall, it is critical to make sure tests work accurately, and are widespread so providers can find it early and track down contacts.
All three leaders expressed concerns about the public’s perception of health care facilities moving forward. They agreed people should not feel uncomfortable coming back into healthcare facilities or afraid as hospitals are the safest place you can go and they are prepared to deal with the disease.
Watch the full discussion from the webinar with some of the state’s top hospitals below: