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Gritman working with community partners to prepare for possible COVID-19 surge

Gritman Medical Center has taken numerous steps to respond to the COVID-19 crisis, including working closely with community organizations, institutions and businesses like the University of Idaho and others to prepare in the event of a surge of infectious patients that exceeds the hospital’s capacity.

Gritman is licensed as a 25-bed Critical Access Hospital, however, additional rooms have been identified that have been or are being converted to give the hospital potentially up to 43 patient rooms in the event of an influx of cases of COVID-19. Gritman has also been working with area leaders to identify off-site locations for patients who may require isolation or lower levels of care as they recover from illness to help prevent the hospital from being overwhelmed with patients.

Even though these sites are not needed at the moment, it is important to plan for all possible scenarios.

At the U of I, a former dormitory has been cleaned, all utilities checked and prepared to safely stage and care for infected community members in a confined area that protects the rest of the campus population and the public. Other residential areas on campus have been identified as well for isolation care of students. Gritman is incredibly grateful for the collaboration with U of I.

Similar types of sites, convention centers, gymnasiums, hotels, schools and other facilities are being converted in cities and countries around the world to help hospitals deal with the increasing number of COVID-19 infections.

But more patient rooms and beds are just a part of the solution. In addition to the possible need for increased space capacity, Gritman also will need the equipment, protective gear and staff to effectively care for patients, which is why the public following the stay-at-home orders in Idaho and Washington is so critical. By staying at home and socially distancing from others, the public helps to minimize the rate of spread of COVID-19 in the community and region, which will help ensure there are enough hospital beds, staff and resources to treat those infected with the virus as well as patients needing care for other types of illnesses and injuries.

For some, it may be difficult to understand the importance of staying at home and in social isolation when we do not yet have a positive case in Latah County. However, the low number of infections is a result of these unprecedented measures. As the disease spreads, sheltering in place and minimizing all social contact remains critically important, as it will help prevent health care workers and the public from getting sick and the health care system from being overwhelmed. The public must do their part.