Holy Name says it’s prepared for a second COVID-19 surge

This is Holy Name Medical Center three months after COVID-19 began overwhelming the hospital where 150 patients have died.

“At times I would say it was demoralizing, but we never quit,” said Dr. Jose Gomez-Marquez.

Thursday, new rules and protocols greet patients on arrival. Concierge service and escorts take them where they need to go.

“We’ve actually found through these modifications, not only do we enhance patient safety, we increase efficiency and patient satisfaction actually goes up because everybody coming in now feels like a VIP,” said Mike Maron, president and CEO of Holy Name Medical Center.

Maron, who recovered from the virus, gave NJTV News a tour of the new normal. The lab for blood drawing and COVID testing has moved to the front door — there’s no trekking through the hospital.

“We can see up to 400 people in here. We just move them in and out. It’s fast processing,” said phlebotomy point of care supervisor Louise Fronjian.

Holy Name is deploying at all of its entrances a safe space scan that checks for things like temperature.

Outpatients go to nearly a dozen different entrances depending on which doctor they need to see. Signs are everywhere to practice social distancing. It means scheduling patients so waiting areas stay just about empty.

“We cannot accommodate as many patients as we were accommodating before,” said Dr. Gilberto Gastell.

That means numerous video visits every day. But, passing through the same-day surgery recovery area, Maron warns not to ignore pre-existing conditions.

For many hospitals including Holy Name, white tents became the symbol of COVID triage. Now they’re being used for check ins.

“We’re dealing with the anxiety and perception that people have that they see a tent and the instantly infection, bad, stay away,” Maron said.

Maron says they invented the “Isopod” to protect staff providing critical care.

“And what that allows us to do is to put that over a stretcher when the patient is inside under that box,” he said. “It’s another added level of exhausting all the virus that they would potentially expel.”

A few patients are still recovering in the isolated centers with 300 beds. At the peak there were 220 positive patients. Maron says Holy Name will leave the centers up as it prepares for a second surge.

“If staffing shortages become a problem, PPE becomes a problem, this facility design helps alleviate both those problems,” Maron said.

“We need to be ready for another spike,” said Dr. Thomas Birch, who leads the hospital’s clinical research institute.

Birch says providers are in much better shape for surge even though they don’t have any definitive therapies.