Princeton Community Hospital

Princeton Community Hospital is seen in this 2019 file photo.

PRINCETON — When 16 COVID-19 patients from Princeton Health Care Center (PHCC) needed to be transported to the hospital Sunday, hospitals in the region were utilized as part of a protocol to make sure immediate care was available.

That is why they went to different hospitals, including Princeton Community Hospital (PCH) and Beckley Appalachian Regional Hospital.

It was not a matter of available beds, but an issue of staffing those beds, said Jeffrey Lilley, CEO of PCH.

“When circumstances like this occur, it is important that we use whatever resources that we have available,” he said. “Part of that process is to communicate with other facilities and utilize them to help offset the disruption.”

Lilley said staffing of beds is an “issue across the country and certainly in West Virginia.”

“This approach allows us to address the problem and maintain some capacity to provide immediate healthcare to others in the community,” he said.

When a call comes in that requires a large emergency response a regional plan is already in place.

According to the West Virginia Hospital Association, it is implemented to transfer patients with COVID-19 to designated healthcare facilities, or alternate care sites with adequate staffing.

Adequate staffing is the issue as staff must be available to not handle the special care with COVID patients, but also to be ready for any other emergency situation that could arise.

Stefanie Compton, PHCC administrator, explained on the center’s website that the team ran some tests on Aug. 2 as ordered by a physician on some residents.

“The outcome of some of those tests prompted the immediate need for additional testing that is only available in an acute care (hospital) setting,” she said. “Therefore, our staff notified emergency services. We understand that once that call was made, that it was considered to be a massive need. Per the coordination of county/regional emergency response, multiple EMS agencies from various areas arrived to transport our residents. When that occurs, the local EMS, our facility, nor the local hospital determines where patients/residents go.”

That is why they were dispatched to different facilities.

“We are thankful for all of their assistance in helping to get our residents to the acute care facilities for additional needed interventions,” she said. “Some of those residents have returned to our center from the emergency rooms while others remain at various hospitals.”

The center conducted another round of mass testing Wednesday,

“Our plan will be further developed once we know the outcome of that testing,” she said.

Hospitals can also reduce the number of elective surgeries to help with surges, which is what Beckley Appalachian Regional Hospital (BARH) did in response to the five patients brought there from PHCC.

Rocky Massey, CEO of PHCC, told the Beckley Register-Herald that the hospital is already dealing with an outbreak of positive cases related to travel to southern states.

“The numbers are increasing,” he said. “Every area hospital, right now, is carrying its percentage and numbers of Covid-positive patients … There is an outbreak here in our region and we are all working together to try to deal with it.”

— Contact Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com

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