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Nebraska Medicine outlines stark COVID contingency plans

Published: Nov. 5, 2020 at 9:25 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - COVID hospitalizations in Nebraska have nearly tripled in three months and a sobering report from Dr. Mark Rupp of Nebraska Medicine paints a vivid picture of their aggressive measures to prepare COVID-19 patients they “know are coming.”

Dr. Rupp heads the hospital’s Division of Infectious Diseases. As their Chief, Rupp oversees a team of healthcare professionals who have actively been crafting contingency plans for hospital procedures if the rate of infection in the Husker state does not slow down.

And it’s no secret, those measures have ripple effects. Earlier this week the major Omaha metro health care systems announced they would each be postponing elective surgeries. “We can only do that for so long before elective things become urgent or emergent." Dr. Rupp explained.

Acknowledging the ripple effect of that option and other possible measures, like transforming operating rooms into intensive care units, is something the doctor warned of. “Instead of operating, we might have to care for patients in a critical care setting.”

None of the options are preferred, but Rupp was candid as he said while the hospital’s priority is to offer safe and timely services to the public, that could be impacted if everyone doesn’t continue adhering to safety measures like mask wearing and social distancing.

Nebraska Medicine has fused creativity and urgency for plans they forecast could take effect not necessarily in a matter of months, but weeks. That’s if the rapid hospitalizations continue. From October 29th through November 4th, statewide seven-day hospitalizations spiked from 528 to 698. In the last 18 days, the total number of hospitalizations has doubled.

Rupp said his intent in sharing this information is not to be alarmist, rather to equip Nebraskans with the whole picture in a dire attempt to help them see how serious the pandemic still is.

“We are creating capacity, converting wards over to make sure we have space to care for these patients and we’ll continue to do that until we run out of space and health care providers and I hope to god we don’t get there.” Rupp shared.

The hospital has already reactivated a plan first introduced in the spring, converting several floors to care for patients battling the virus.

"There are contingency plans to have cots in the hallways and meeting rooms.” Dr. Rupp detailed if they should need to find additional space on top of the aforementioned options.

Dr. Rupp did offer some hope, stating Nebraska’s pandemic does not have to mirror that of other states or cities who are overrun with cases and barely able to keep up. “You don’t have to do much web surfing to find those horrific pictures of ambulances all day, all night, taking people into emergency departments.” he referenced.

But to prevent that, people should not become complacent he said. Instead, they should exercise discipline and make the tough decisions to sit out some public events and think twice about engaging in risky behavior that could further spread the deadly virus.

“They’ve had to make tough life or death choices about who gets critical care and who doesn’t.” the doctor said of healthcare providers across the nation. That’s not a reality his workers want to face, and while they are doing everything they can to prevent that, he reiterated, Nebraska Medicine cannot do it alone.

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