Chicago hospitals set up testing tents, cancel non-essential surgeries in preparations for COVID-19 patient influx; No visitors allowed inside

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A big concern nationwide is whether hospitals are prepared for a potential influx of patients.

Any procedure that is not urgent or life-threatening - such as hip and knee replacements, ACL reconstructions, and plastic surgery - is being postponed at hospitals around the country, including in Chicago.

Rush University Medical Center announced Monday that all non-essential surgeries will be postponed starting Wednesday.

"We're planning to postpone the surgeries scheduled for the next three weeks until April 15. This, essentially, avoids patients from coming to the hospital," said Dr. Alfonso Torquati at Rush University Medical Center. "Also it's about saving our resources to be used for other more sick patients."

The idea is to free up ICUs and ventilators that may be needed to treat critical patients.

Rush is also now identifying potential COVID-19 cases in a special triage center set up inside their ambulance bay. The area keeps patients six feet from one another, creates a safe environment for them to be tested in, and most importantly keeps potential patients away from others in the hospital.

"It's important to prepare for the worst possible case scenario," said Dr. Omar Lateff at Rush University Medical Center. "It may be that we don't have that many patients coming into this area. It may be that we have more patients coming in that not just us, but the health system of this country can handle."

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These actions are being replicated, in one way or another, in several other hospitals in the area.

Northwestern Medicine said they are also finalizing plans for potential outdoor triage and testing.

Edward Hospital in Naperville has set up outdoor testing tents. Elmhurst Hospital is said to be using their ambulance bay for that same reason.

They are also trying to figure out if they can set up drive-thru testing, something officials are saying is not really feasible from a logistical sense in the city.

Advocate Aurora Health and Jesse Brown VA hospital announced Monday they will no longer allow visitors inside. There are a few exceptions for pediatric patients or end of life situations.

All visitors in those cases will have to pass a health screening.

Across the nation, hospital workers are bracing for a possible spike in cases that could overrun the health care system.

Protective gear is a priority, including more gloves and masks.

In Ohio, one nurse's union is demanding more protective equipment to safeguard against infected patients.

Several hospital workers at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston have now tested positive for COVID-19.
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