Southcoast Health plans for surge, encourages commitment to coronavirus precautions

Nov 12, 2020

A warehouse of personal protective equipment, stricter limits on visitation and a shift back to telehealth services — these are just a few of the ways Southcoast Health, the parent company that operates Wareham’s Tobey Hospital, is managing the ongoing increase in covid-19 cases.

“We’re as ready as a health system can be,” said Shawn Badgley, SouthCoast’s public information officer.

He said Southcoast Health is preparing for late fall and winter to look like the early months of the pandemic. Current trends suggest that a surge in cases is already occurring, he said.

“We are instituting the same types of protocols and workflows that we did during the early days of the pandemic,” Badgley said. “But we’re able to refine those and improve those based on what worked and what didn’t, internally.”

Compared to spring and summer, Badgley said Southcoast Health is seeing more patients who are younger — in their 20s, 30s and 40s — come in with severe cases of covid-19.

“That’s very concerning and it’s very concerning that this is coinciding with the holiday season, where folks are obviously keen on gathering,” Badgley said. 

He urged people to continue taking the pandemic seriously by avoiding gathering indoors whenever possible, socially distancing, wearing masks and taking other precautions.

As of noon on Wednesday, Nov. 11, Tobey Hospital in Wareham had five patients hospitalized who had tested positive for covid-19, while another five patients were considered “under investigation” for covid-19. 

Badgley explained that patients fall into the “under investigation” category if they are symptomatic, awaiting test results and in enough medical distress to warrant hospitalization, even if they have not officially tested positive yet.

As the number of cases across Massachusetts have increased, Southcoast Health has continued preparations, Badgley said. 

“We have navigated a lot of the PPE procurement concerns and challenges that emerged in the spring and summer. Our supply chains are intact,” he said. “Our warehouse, which is 2,000 square feet of pallets stacked 15 feet high basically… is full with masks and gowns and other necessary supplies.”

If the number of cases stays within the predictions of Southcoast Health’s data models, the system should have enough PPE to meet the need, Badgley said. Of course, he noted, there could always be an unexpected, extraordinary spike in cases. 

Southcoast Health hasn’t stopped at PPE procurement. They’ve also begun scaling back the number of people allowed in some hospital facilities once again, Badgley said.

“We have even tightened our visitation policies,” he said. “We were able to relax them a little bit in the late summer, but now we’re tightening them up again because we really need to have as few people in our hospitals as possible.”

In that same vein, Badgley said there is an ongoing shift back to primarily telehealth services when that is an option.

Even as Tobey Hospital and Southcoast Health brace for more cases, Badgley emphasized that the community’s commitment to coronavirus safety precautions is more important than ever. 

“Our biggest ally in the fight against covid right now is vigilance,” he said. “Our greatest enemy, aside from the disease itself, is complacency. All of us [at Southcoast Health], if we could share one message with the community, it would be to take this wave as seriously as you’ve taken covid at any point in the past year, because it has the potential to make a lot of people sick.”