Coronavirus shows no signs of slowing down yet, but doctors at Atrium Health want patients to know they are in the best hands.
For the last month, Atrium Health and Levine Children’s Hospital have prepared for the inevitable COVID-19 outbreak. Callie Dobbins, facility executive at Levine Children’s Hospital, said she and her colleagues have plans in place in the event a child comes down with coronavirus, though not many child cases have been reported since the outbreak.
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“We are completely ready,” Dobbins said in a panel discussion March 13. “We are prepared. We have plans for our nursing team, our physician team, our nurse practitioners and [physician’s assistants].”
Dobbins said in addition to being prepared for coronavirus, the hospital is also prepared for all children’s emergencies. Policies would be put in place to isolate cases of coronavirus from other pediatric situations in the hospital.
No matter where patients are located, Atrium Health and Levine Children’s Hospital clinics, urgent cares and emergency rooms are all prepared.
“All of our clinics across any place that Atrium Health has a location has been preparing the same way,” Dobbins said. “We have a lot of options for our patients or our families to use virtual visits. They can call their pediatrician or their family doctor if they’re feeling ill. That’s the first step. Then if they’re having emergent-type symptoms, we want them to go to their closest emergency department.”
Drew Harman, Levine Children’s Hospital’s chief medical officer, assured the community that though there is a lot of panic surrounding coronavirus, things will be OK.
“What we’re hoping is that seasonal variation with common respiratory viruses we see that decrease over the summer months in warmer climates,” Harman said. “We’re hoping that will happen and we’re hoping that it will go down, but we just don’t know. We’re prepared to continue to take care of everyone out there as best as we can until it does blow over, but it will. It will go away and the majority of folks are going to be just fine.”
While the risk of contracting the virus is lower for all children, the risk of developing severe symptoms is greater for children with conditions that compromise their immune systems, such as cystic fibrosis and asthma. Adult patients with these conditions are also at risk of developing more severe symptoms.
Ashley Chadha, who serves as the specialty medical director for pediatric pulmonology, said in addition to following existing precautions of handwashing and social distancing, patients with chronic illnesses should have a 30-day supply of their chronic medication and rescue medication readily available.
Also at risk are adult patients with heart problems. Atrium Health Chief of Adult Cardiology Sanjeev Gulati said the best practices for these patients are to properly sanitize, eat healthy meals and be closely monitored by a doctor. He advised those who do not need to be in a healthcare facility immediately to utilize Atrium Health’s virtual care program in which doctors can see patients remotely.
The most important thing, the doctors said, was to get accurate information. Doctors recommended calling the county and state hotlines to figure out if they need to go to the emergency room and visit the Center for Disease Control’s website to see the facts, as well as find child-friendly information.
“The fact is that the vast majority of people do not get sick with coronavirus,” said David Callaway from the division of operational and disaster medicine. “Eighty percent of people have a mild illness that requires no medical care, so it’s important to understand what puts you at risk for getting sicker and when you want to access that health system.”
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