–by Steven Bieber
PUBLICATION DATE: Dec 14, 2020
ProMedica Flower Hospital saw its first COVID patient on March 7. Since then the doctors have been fighting to see that as many people recover as quickly as possible. To explain what ProMedica Flower was like then and now, Brian Kaminski DO, Medical Director of Emergency Department at Flower Hospital, discussed the COVID crisis at the ProMedica headquarters in downtown Toledo.
Dr. Kaminski has been fighting on the front lines since the pandemic hit Sylvania in early March. Doctors were quickly forced to prepare for worst case scenario, which was full capacity. Dr. Kaminski explained what steps were taken to prepare.
“We started looking at areas in the hospital where we don’t normally provide in-patient care and converting those to in-patient beds.” One example that he provided was “we have an area that’s near the front of the hospital that we use to recover some patients with outpatient from minor surgeries and that area has a total of 13 beds and it isn’t ordinarily full. We usually have three or four patients there, and since we knew we wouldn’t be doing outpatient surgeries in a pandemic, we had dedicated that space to be able to use for inpatients.”
Another option that was considered were to use operating rooms for patients in case the hospital ran out of space.
When the pandemic started there was fear of facing problems with hospital capacity and supplies. Luckily for Flower, the doctors never had to face such issues, but they did prepare as Dr. Kaminski described.
“Supplies were mostly surrounded around Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Just like everyone else in the country, we were doing a lot of work to assure that we had the appropriate amount of PPE to keep our staff safe and also that as we consume it we have more PPE coming in. We worked with our supply chain to make sure that we’re using our supplies to the fullest extent that we can use it and reuse it based on the national guidelines that were out there.”
Regarding ventilators Dr. Kaminski said, “Our hospital system has a finite number of ventilators. There was a concern that we might need more of them at one point, so we were prepared to use the ventilators that are in the operating rooms and then also to acquire other ventilators in other areas in our system if we needed them.”
He continued with, “At the peak of the pandemic we were actually counting that twice a day. We would get reports twice a day of our current ventilator use, our current available ventilators, and what we might project into the future as it relates to patients that require them. It turns out we did not exceed that number; we had plenty of ventilators.”
For protection of patients, data such as infections, deaths and recoveries are not released. The one thing that Dr. Kaminski could reveal was that the rate of mortality was much less than the state and national averages. Mortality among patients on ventilators across the nation is 30-40 percent, and Flower has half the national average.
Dr. Kaminski said that the situation in Flower is much calmer than it was when the pandemic first started. The hospital is operating at 85-95 percent of pre-COVID capacity in the emergency department. It is back to full surgical capacity. Dr. Kaminski also stated that no patients have contracted COVID from the hospital and that the doctors have all remained healthy.
As cold and flu season approaches, there are concerns as to what it could mean for incoming patients. Dr. Kaminski discussed his concerns.
“We are worried a little bit because the flu is very similar symptoms to COVID-19 and it’s hard for any individual to distinguish the difference between the two. That potentially drives an influx of patients, meaning that if we have COVID patients plus flu patients, plus some patients might have flu and COVID, that just increases the numbers to levels we saw in May or June.” The biggest thing that Dr. Kaminski wants from the state and federal government is information.
He explains, “we would like a steady flow of reliable information of what’s happening across the country. As the vaccine develops, we want to learn more about that, about the phase three clinical trials and how it looks in terms of safety and ethics and how different regions of the country are going to receive distributions to the vaccine when that comes in. I think that the federal government and federal agencies have a big role on keeping us informed on not only when the vaccine will be ready but how we will acquire it and how we will distribute it to our staff members and to our community and the prioritization that exists there.”
Along with vaccine information, Dr. Kaminski wants the federal and government to issue community safeguards to allow the community to get back to normal at a safe pace.
Dr. Kaminski offered a message to the people of Sylvania. “I want to let them know that we are here for them and that we are taking extraordinary measures to keep people safe that come into our system whether it’s for an emergency department visit, an office visit, an outpatient surgery or any of the other reasons that people choose to have healthcare.”
He asks that the community “if you’re sick, call your family physician and if you have something that can be postponed while you’re not feeling well, please postpone it. We ask you to not congregate in a large group because we know those are the things that cause clusters of illness. When you are out and about, remember the w’s. Watch your distance, wash your hands, and wear your mask.”