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URMC / Highland Hospital / Medical Professionals / Physician News / June 2020 / Highland ED: Committed to Safe Care for All

Highland ED: Committed to Safe Care for All

Highland’s Emergency Department mobilized early and quickly to care for COVID-19 patients while still providing a safe environment for other patients who needed emergency care.

“Early on we built a COVID tent outside for screening and testing, mobilized our resources, developed new protocols and created a new ED triage plan and infrastructure to care for all who entered our doors,” said Timothy E. Lum, M.D., MPP, chief of Emergency Medicine.

The ED named the area for possible COVID patients the ‘hot side’ and the area for all other patients the ‘cold side.’  The ED layout and flow were redesigned to meet the ever changing circumstances of the pandemic.

ED processes were reviewed and new ones were created and training centered around the main goal of keeping patients, staff, and their loved ones safe. On the front line and often the first to encounter patients were clerical staff who had to greet patients, then Triage nurses were next encounter. It was necessary to quickly create a safe process for them too.

Another goal then and today is to get the message out that it is safe to come to the ED with non-COVID ailments. “People have been apprehensive across the country about going to hospitals with chest pain and neurological symptoms,” said Dr. Lum. “We want to alleviate fears and let them know we have created a safe environment and they should not delay care. The message is getting out and we are starting to see more patients back in the ED. We still screen each patient for COVID-possible and test when warranted.”

“In Emergency medicine you have to be nimble – to respond, react, and adapt quickly,” said Dr. Lum. “When you can be proactive that is a bonus. We were able to make plans, but this was a situation where things changed day by day and sometimes hour by hour. In the beginning we had to take into consideration staff concerns and anxiety about having enough PPE as well.”

“Everyone in the ED team did an extraordinary job through all of this,” said Dr. Lum.  “We are so proud of the staff.” Dr. Lum also shared some examples throughout Highland of people who behaved in heroic ways.

Staff from OB/GYN came to the ED to help keep things clean and assist where needed.  Orthopaedics and surgery and other doctors called to see how they could help.

“We are living in a new world,” said Dr. Lum. “But we are making it a safe new world. Throughout this process Highland has shown its true colors. We step up and respond. We adjust on the fly when we have to and meet the challenges of the changing and shifting ground of this pandemic. And we do it together.”


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