Rush, University of Chicago hospitals prepare for possible surge of COVID-19 patients

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Thursday that Chicago could see more than 40,000 hospitalizations in the coming weeks, which has hospitals bracing for a potential surge of COVID-19 patients.

Hundreds of medical professionals will walk back into the University of Chicago Medical Center Friday morning, fresh off illness or travel-induced quarantine. They may be returning just in time.

"This is a big deal for us to be able to bring back these experts, skilled workers back into our workplace and really help us to be able to take care of the surge of patients that we're expecting," said Dr. Emily Landon.

On the West Side, Rush University Medical Center is expanding its patient capacity by transforming its main lobby into a low-grade emergency room. Individual recliners marked off by privacy screens will function as mini-treatment areas for the mildly ill or injured.

"These are low acuity conditions -- ankle sprains, minor trauma, minor abdominal pain -- those types of cases that you don't really need an emergency department for," said Dr. Dino Rumoro, dean of Rush Medical College and chairperson of the Department of Emergency Medicine.

The area is designed almost as overflow if Rush's emergency room gets inundated with possible COVID-19 patients.

"Now we're at the point in the epidemic where we anticipate, based on analytics done by analytics team, we might start seeing a surge of patients that might start getting sick," Dr. Rumoro said. "We just want to be prepared for when those patients come in."

All patients will come in through the main emergency area and from there, be divided by symptom.

In the lobby, patients will be treated by doctors and surgeons who aren't on the frontlines.

"Because there's so many health care providers right now who are not in their normal line of work because of this outbreak," Dr. Rumoro said.

Across the state, health officials are scoping out large spaces to set up temporary treatment facilities or effective field hospitals.

"This morning, we spent time with folks from the state and my team and Army Corps of Engineers at McCormick Place. We were looking at what it takes, not in a theoretical way, to layout thousands of beds," said Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady.

The Sophy Hotel in Hyde Park is offering up its rooms to University of Chicago medical staff working around the clock to contain COVID-19.

"Being only a mile away from the University of Chicago, knowing that the hotel is strictly for their colleagues and personnel alleviates a lot during that time," said Anthony Beach, general manager at Sophy Hotel.
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