Inova: We have beds to handle coronavirus surge, supply chain is concern

Inova sign in front of emergency room entrance
Inova Mount Vernon Hospital.

Inova is confident that its five hospitals in Northern Virginia have enough beds to handle the expected surge in coronavirus cases over the next 1-2 months.

That’s according to Susan Carroll, who serves as operations commander for Inova’s coronavirus (COVID-19) response. Carroll spoke Friday during the Lee District virtual town hall meeting on coronavirus concerns held by Supervisor Rodney Lusk (see video below).

Inova has not disclosed how many coronavirus patients are already hospitalized in the company’s facilities, and it is not clear how many people are hospitalized due to the disease in the Fairfax Health District, which includes the county, Fairfax City and City of Falls Church. Statewide there are 431 coronavirus-related hospitalizations as of Sunday morning, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

Carroll said during the town hall that Inova’s hospitals are designed to handle patient surges, and that bed space was not a primary concern for the hospital system at this point.

“We have a lot of capacity at all five of our hospitals right now,” Carroll said, noting that elective surgeries have been cancelled. “[Bed space] is not really our concern when it comes to surge planning.”

Additionally, Carroll said the hospital system has seen fewer patients overall thanks the stay-at-home order given by Gov. Ralph Northam, as well as the basic social distancing measures made by the public. Those measures have also reduced what Carroll described as “stress-related” hospitalizations and non-coronavirus respiratory-related hospitalizations.

Carroll said that 57 negative pressure rooms — isolation rooms designed to contain airborne contaminants — have been added to Inova’s five hospitals in Northern Virginia in preparation for the coronavirus surge.

While it is impossible to know for sure when Virginia will hit its hospitalization peak, a University of Washington study estimates it will be around May 20. Rep. Don Beyer, who also spoke during the town hall, reiterated that time frame, and Carroll said Inova’s current projections are similar.

Beyer said he has spoken with Inova CEO Stephen Jones and Virginia Hospital Center CEO Jim Cole and they had both reassured him that bed space was not their biggest worry at the moment.

“They both have said that in the in short run, or even in the medium run, they are OK. There are enough beds,” Beyer said.

Supply chain problems

Inova does have shortages of certain equipment due to supply chain issues, Carroll said. Coronavirus test reagents — the chemicals used when testing a patient to see if they have the virus — have been particularly difficult to acquire. Supplies of reagents are generally redirected to areas like New York that are currently near the peak of their surge, she said.

“The supply chain has never been this disrupted before,” Carroll said. “We do have some struggles with our supply chain.”

However Inova believes the testing situation will improve in about two weeks, and Carroll said that Inova does have a good inventory of testing machines already.

“We are thinking that in the next two weeks that we will be able to have more testing capabilities across our facilities,” Carroll said.

Neither Inova nor Fairfax County have said how many tests have been performed countywide since the first coronavirus case was reported in early March. Virginia has lagged behind other states in total tests — as of Saturday, 23 states had done more tests than Virginia’s 21,552, according to the COVID Tracking Project.

While reagents and items like the long swabs for testing remain difficult to acquire, Carroll said that Inova’s facilities will have enough of most items to handle the expected crush of coronavirus patients, according to Carroll.

“We do feel very confident that we do have all the supplies that we need now and to get us through the surge that we’re going to be seeing,” Carroll said.

Beyer said the concern he’s heard most from medical officials is a shortage of N95 masks. Ventilators are not as much of an immediate worry in Virginia, Beyer said, but added that “Governor Northam was very disappointed the few number of ventilators that were given to us out of the national stockpile.”


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