Augusta Health highlights readiness for COVID-19

Augusta HealthAugusta Health is prepared to be able to surge to at least 50 percent above its licensed bed status in the hospital to meet possible demand from COVID-19, according to a white paper on its surge plan released by the hospital on Tuesday.

The state requires hospitals to be able to surge to accommodate at least 20 percent above its licensed bed census, according to the white paper.

Back in October, Augusta Health participated in a program with Virginia’s Emergency Management Services to evaluate its ability to implement a surge plan. A fire and emergency management consultant observed every unit at the hospital and provided recommendations about which areas could be converted and what additional resources might be needed.

Augusta Health’s response to address and implement these recommendations last fall created a foundation for being able to response to the COVID-19 pandemic.


To be able to ramp up beyond the state requirement, the first floor Surgical Unit and Joint Center at Augusta Health have been re-engineered to be a specific Respiratory Care Unit.

The entire first floor is also now a negative pressure zone.

The ground floor Skilled and Rehab Units will be re-engineered to take care of regular medical patients.

The Emergency Department has added 11 negative pressure rooms.

Between the Emergency Department and the inpatient areas, Augusta Health has added 32 additional isolation rooms for a current total of 50 isolation rooms at the hospital.

The entire Waynesboro Urgent Care has been converted to isolation rooms.

Other units such as the Rehab Unit, the Post Anesthesia Care Unit and the Endoscopy Unit can be re-engineered to care for patients as needed.

A drive-thru testing facility is ready to be activated at the Waynesboro Urgent Care.

Planning also includes providing for separation of patients with respiratory illness from those with other medical conditions.

These include:

  • separate triage areas and treatment zones in the Emergency Department
  • directing patients with respiratory symptoms to the Assessment Center at the Waynesboro Urgent Care and directing patients with other Urgent Care issues to alternative Urgent Care locations
  • the separate units on different floors within the hospital

Memorandums of understanding with facilities such as Augusta Expo, utilities and suppliers to raise capacity to handle surges have been in place for many years.

Inside the Numbers

The focus of the surge plan developed more than a year ago was to address high volumes of patients during flu season. Stress testing began for real in the current flu season when the Emergency Department when a high-volume flu season occurred.

The plan was activated when the department admissions escalated, so the entire staff at the hospital was aware and able to provide support as needed.

With new models and predictions for COVID-19, Augusta Health staff has adapted the surge plan to address COVID-19 patients.

For COVID-19, an algorithm has been developed that incorporates capacity, admissions to the hospital, discharges from the hospital, acuity of patients and bed status to determine if any phase of the Surge Plan needs to be activated. The algorithm is run twice each day.

Augusta Health’s Incident Command Management Team meets twice daily to gauge the impact of COVID-19 on both the community and the hospital. The model considers population, demographics, incidence of disease and acuity to determine how many additional admissions there will be to the hospital and what resources will be required.

That volume changes daily, as more accurate information is added to the model.

Based on the potential volume, units and resources are re-engineered to meet the predicted volumes.

Story by Chris Graham

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