Huntsville hospital executives talk COVID-19 plans and preparations

No cases have been confirmed in North Alabama so far, but the hospital says it is prepared when it does.

Posted: Mar 13, 2020 9:20 PM

Huntsville Hospital executives talked to WAAY 31 about their plan with COVID-19 spreading across the United States and with cases now confirmed in Alabama.

Huntsville Hospital stressed it doesn't want widespread panic here in North Alabama, but they want everyone to take COVID-19 seriously and wash their hands and be smart about hygiene.

A team of executives from the hospital talked for about 45 minutes Friday about what's going on here in North Alabama now that the state has its first confirmed cases of COVID-19. They explained when a national emergency is declared it allows for rules to be relaxed and more caregivers to step up.

David Spillers, Huntsville Hospital's Chief Executive Officer, said having these options is crucial for the days, weeks and months ahead.

"We are the most highly regulated industry in America probably other than the nuclear power industry. Setting up this clinic we are talking about, we have many more options in an emergency situation that we do in a normal operating condition," Spillers said.

The clinic Spillers mentioned is something the hospital is working to release more information about next week.

However, he said they're working on a way to set up a clinic for people who don't have a serious need, and they don't need to be at the hospital. They can still get medical attention from their doctors and nurses without infecting others.

Huntsville Hospital said it has plenty of space for patients and the emergency room isn't stressed. However, since the start of coronavirus spreading across the United States they started reviewing the plans that have been in place for years about capacity issues.

The hospital said it has many non-traditional areas it could keep patients in if need be those include operating room suites and other suites not typically used. Huntsville Hospital said it has about 1,700 rooms across it's entire health care system in North Alabama and have counted their equipment.

"We have counted our ventilators. We have counted our isolation rooms, and we know what are capacity is. We've brainstormed how to work if we are short staffed. We just want to assure the community we have done all those things to be as ready as we can be to care for patients," said Jeff Samz, Chief Operating Officer.

Although there are 1,700 hundred beds available, Huntsville Hospital executives said if staff starts to get sick they will have to work short-staffed, and said that means people stepping up and doing more than usual it still could put stress on the system and lower capacity.

The hospital said testing is expanding and not just in state labs but also in private labs. Executives said testing is expanding rapidly and they are hoping to have testing at hospitals within the next two weeks. 

The Alabama Department of Health said most tests can take 24 hours to 72 hours to process the tests. The hospital said once it has  processing of the test available it could take about four hours to process. Any commerical labs that have tests processed will have to send them to the state to process for a second time to get a presumptive case confirmed. 

The hospital is urging people to not come to the emergency room unless for something serious and to seek urgent care help or go to a doctors office.

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CountyCasesDeaths
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Marion255763
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Pickens201831
Barbour188240
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Washington144027
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Macon124337
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Bullock105829
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Sumter90828
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Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

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Reported Deaths: 9162
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Overton260646
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