Christ Hospital unveils pre-screening system for ER as way to alleviate COVID-19 burden

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Christ Hospital officials unveiled a temporary screening structure outside of their emergency room entrance to pre-screen walk-ins before they enter the building, as concerns mount over medical facilities being overwhelmed with COVID-19 treatment and screenings.

By Corey McDonald/Hudson County View

Joined alongside a number of Jersey City officials, top medical professionals for the Palisade Avenue healthcare facility unveiled the new pre-screening structure directly outside of the hospital’s emergency room.

The system will work as a buffer zone, and is intended to help streamline the admitting process for anyone seeking emergency room treatment, as well as to evaluate and identify those who are infected with the coronavirus to ensure proper treatment while safeguarding hospital employees from exposure.

“This helps protect the front line medical staff, and also helps protect our patients,” said Dr. Tucker Woods, the chief medical officer at the hospital.

“One of the concerns with many viruses and epidemics is 35 to 50 percent of healthcare workers themselves could get infected; this way we can prevent that spread of the infection inside the hospital [and] will also help protect our patients as well.”

All emergency room patients will first enter a trailer outside of the hospital to get screened: “If the staff feels they do not have any risk factors for COVID-19, then they’ll go inside the ‘green zone,’ inside the emergency department,” Woods added.

If the patients are sick, they’ll continue to be screened in a tent outside of the facility.

“If we think the patient might have COVID-19, then they’ll get directed to the tent and if they’re healthy – walking and talking with no issues — they can get a chest x-ray if necessary, any necessary prescriptions, and they’ll get treated and released right from the tent.”

Woods further stated that 75 percent of the patients treated for COVID-19 have been treated and released, before being asked to self-quarantine at home. He also clarified that Christ Hospital is not a testing facility at this time.

The CEO of the hospital, Marie Duffy, took the opportunity today to thank the hospital staff, “as well as all healthcare workers that are battling this disease everyday and are on the front lines. They are our heroes. I want to thank them for their dedication and support.”

The announcement today comes as the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, continues to spread at a staggering rate.

Hospitals and health care facilities are working to ensure their facilities do not become inundated, such as what occurred in countries hard hit by the virus like China and Italy.

State officials this morning announced there are now 742 total cases of COVID-19 in the state, including 55 from Hudson County.

Yesterday, the New Jersey Department of Health told HCV that a woman in her 80’s with pre-existing conditions was the first Hudson County resident to die from COVID-19.

Mayor Steve Fulop today said that Jersey City currently has 25 confirmed cases of the virus, with 38 cases pending.

“We expect that trend to continue,” he said. “So we need to be protecting the front line: the health care professionals, as much as we need to be protecting the public.”

Local municipalities have all taken measures to prevent the spread.

Seven municipalities have declared states of emergency, including Jersey City, and officials in every municipality have urged its residents to practice social distancing, so as to stave off the spread of infection so that the state’s health care facilities do not become overburdened.

Hoboken on Tuesday announced a “self-isolation” policy, limiting the trips outside the home to “essential needs” such as food shopping, obtaining medicine, and other necessary supplies for household members – though there are other exceptions where people can leave there homes.

Fulop, when asked if the Jersey City is considering a similar policy, said, “No, not yet.”

Healthcare workers across the globe are facing extreme work conditions as they combat a virus never before seen in humans.

There are more than 200,000 cases and nearly 9,800 fatalities from the virus globally, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

“I heard one doctor describe it: it’s sort of like we’re pioneers exploring Mars for the first time,” Woods said. “It’s a new disease so this is new for us but we update the staff regularly as soon as we get a new recommendation from the CDC. But its day-by-day.”

Woods also said that no employees at Christ Hospital that have tested positive for the virus.

Hospital officials noted that they have adequate supplies, although there is a shortage of masks and other personal protective equipment – an issue seen globally.

Additionally, they’ve cancelled all elective surgical procedures to allow them to expand space in the hospital if need be.

Like many officials before, medical professionals today stressed the importance of social distancing to flatten the curve “and then hopefully we won’t have a supply-demand mismatch with the ventilators,” Woods said.

“We’re sort of in two fights: we’re in a fight with the virus, but we’re also fighting fear; a lot of people are fearful of the unknown and I want to tell people not to be fearful because we know how the virus spreads, it spread when you contact your mucus membranes,” Woods explained, adding the virus spreads similar to the flu but is not airborne.

“It’s super important to practice good hygiene so you don’t have to be fearful, because we can prevent this.”

 

Follow Corey McDonald on Twitter @cwmcdonald_