The staff of North Ottawa Community Hospital organized rooms over the weekend and officials say they are prepared for the expected surge of COVID-19 patients.

In addition, the Grand Haven hospital announced is not taking any patients from the Detroit area, NOCH spokesperson Jennifer VanSkiver said Monday.

“Our No. 1 goal has always been to care for our community first,” she said. “Even in these unprecedented times, that will not change.”

Because of privacy laws, VanSkiver said that the hospital would not be giving a daily update on COVID-19 patients. NOCH had no such patients as of Tuesday morning, she said.

NOCH currently is set up for 79 patients, which means they are doubling up in rooms that have been historically used as private.

“Ten rooms upstairs have double-head walls,” VanSkiver said, noting that made it a lot easier to increase numbers in the space.

Workers have transformed the infusion clinic space to become a triage center. The clinic was moved elsewhere in the hospital.

“We have cleared out that entire wing and retrofitted it for symptomatic people,” VanSkiver said. “It’s almost like a duplicate ER.”

On Monday morning, the hospital’s medical staff conducted drills on the use of personal protection equipment (PPE), managing testing, and how to get patients from one point to another.

Officials are also analyzing every employee’s skill sets to see where they can best be used during this time. For example, a labor/delivery nurse in an area where needs are currently down might have skills that could be put to work elsewhere.

VanSkiver acknowledged that some hospital staff members were laid off late last week, mostly in the surgical area, because the hospital is no longer doing elective surgeries per the governor’s executive order. Normally, they adjust staff based on needs with the “go home, stay home” strategy, VanSkiver said.

“If there is a spike in patients, they are called in,” she said. “If they are not needed, they are told to stay home.”

However, in a situation like this, where they are not getting the hours they need to qualify for unemployment, the hospital decided this was a way they could help staff financially.

“Everybody understands this is a temporary situation,” VanSkiver said. “It could change in a day. We could call everyone back tomorrow.”

All NOCH employees are hired with the understanding that they have more than one skill set and can be used in different areas of the hospital. VanSkiver said the Grand Haven hospital is not big enough for everyone to be specialized.

“In a way, that makes us uniquely suited for a situation like this,” she said.

Hospital staff is also busy evaluating equipment needs after a weekend of rallying from the community brought a lot of supplies through the door.

“A man who works as an independent carpenter was asking where he could donate a box of N-95 masks, and a friend tagged me,” VanSkiver said.

She messaged the man and he dropped off the masks within an hour.

“That’s the power of social media,” VanSkiver said.

The hospital is working with private companies to see what else they can acquire.

VanSkiver said the hospital is getting a lot of requests to donate food for its staff, but they are evaluating the best way to have that safely done before the expected surge.

“Ice cream (from Temptations) on Friday was lovely,” she said, “but it was all self-contained and easy to manage.”

VanSkiver said they are hopeful to be able to figure out the safest ways to manage the foods that people want to donate to the staff while they are at work, and also to have meals for them to take home to their families. In the meantime, the hospital cafeteria remains open to serve the staff and patients.

The hospital is posting donations and their thanks on social media.

“We’re thanking people publicly for their donations, small and large,” VanSkiver said. “We are putting it out there for our employees to see, too. They are so busy working so many hours. We’re doing it so they know how many people in our town are thinking of them.”

Monday was Doctor’s Day, she added.

“We typically do all kinds of things, but today we put a request on Facebook for people to consider supporting these folks,” she said. “The love and gratitude means a lot.”

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