Hospitals in our area are preparing for what could be a potential spike in the number of COVID-19 cases in the coming days.
The hospitals have also received some good news recently with Gov. Andy Beshear and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell successfully securing much needed federal funds that will go towards helping rural facilities combat the coronavirus pandemic.
The Appalachian Regional Commission’s online tool that allows visitors to “explore county-level coronavirus impact planning” currently has Whitley County’s typical hospital bed count at 305, including zero ICU beds and 280 staffed beds. As of Tuesday afternoon, the county only had one confirmed case of COVID-19.
Speaking generally about the hospital’s preparedness to handle coronavirus cases right now, Baptist Health Corbin President Anthony Powers said, “We actually have 273 licensed beds, including 20 ICU, all staffed.”
In the case of a spike in COVID-19 cases in the coming days, Powers explained, “We have developed an internal surge plan that would expand the number of our ICU beds should we see a sudden influx of patients.”
Powers also said that Baptist has access to a total of 27 ventilators right now, whereas the hospital would normally only have access to 10. He went on to describe the details of the hospital’s surge plan, but in summary, officials are currently “hoping for the best, but also preparing for the worst.”
In Laurel County, where there have been five confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Tuesday afternoon, Saint Joseph Hospital President John Yanes said that ARC’s typical hospital bed counts of 150 licensed, 14 ICU and 105 staffed are currently accurate, adding, “The safety and care of our patients and our people is our highest priority. Saint Joseph London is prepared to respond to any sudden increase in patient load, including COVID-19 patients.”
“Plans are in place, and are constantly assessed to ensure that we rapidly respond to the specific needs of this patient population,” Yanes continued. “We have the supplies, equipment and people needed to care for our patients should that increase occur. We continue to work to secure any additional resources that we may need as the situation evolves.”
Attempts were made, but were not successful, to reach representatives with both the Barbourville ARH medical facility in Knox County, as well as the Jellico Community Hospital in Campbell County, Tenn. As of Tuesday, ARC’s online tool had Knox County with 25 licensed hospital beds, including six ICU beds and 25 staffed. Knox County announced its first confirmed case of COVID-19 on Monday afternoon.
As for Campbell County, ARC currently shows their typical bed counts at 120 licensed, including 10 ICU and 81 staffed. The last update had them at five confirmed cases.
As for the funds that will be provided to help rural hospitals, a press release from the Governor’s office last Friday said, “the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) approved Kentucky’s request to recover Medicaid federal match rates and provide federal funds for a payment benefitting over 50 rural hospitals in the commonwealth.”
The press release went on to say, “The total amount of federal funds will be determined by CMS and will help pay hundreds of millions in damages resulting from a state court order between the commonwealth and rural hospitals regarding Medicaid inpatient rates.”
In the release, Gov. Beshear is quoted, saying, “We fought hard for this funding, which will now help dozens of Kentucky’s rural hospitals with the crucial support they need to help fight against COVID-19 and confront this pandemic in the commonwealth.”
Senator McConnell commented, “As Kentucky’s rural hospitals and medical professionals stand on the frontline of the coronavirus crisis, I’m glad the Trump administration answered our call to deliver these critical federal funds. As Senate Majority Leader, I was proud to raise this important Kentucky priority to the highest levels of the federal government.”
“I look forward to continuing to work with Governor Beshear and our rural hospitals to help give them the tools necessary to care for patients and fulfill their mission,” McConell said.
A statement from Saint Joseph Health CEO Bruce Tassin said, “We are among the Kentucky hospitals across the commonwealth that will recover finds from Medicaid in a settlement proposal approved by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The proposal covers services provided at rural Kentucky hospitals from 2007 to 2015.”
“We’re appreciative that Governor Beshear and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell worked very closely with CMS to ensure that hospitals will be made whole for the services provided to Medicaid patients over an eight-year period,” Tassin added. “This proposal allows rural hospitals in Kentucky to recover the actual cost of services provided to Medicaid patients during that timeframe.”
Baptist Health Corbin President Anthony Powers said, “We have been in contact with the Governor’s office, and are currently receiving direction on what we need to do to apply, but right now it is still a little too early to tell if we will be included in that group of hospitals receiving federal funds.”