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Jax Daily Record Monday, Mar. 23, 202003:38 PM EST

Baptist Health COO: ‘This is like a 100-day hurricane drill’

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Matt Zuino says there’s added stress for everyone, but the hospital isn’t short of supplies.
by: Katie Garwood Staff Writer

Baptist Health Chief Operating Officer Matt Zuino said the hospital system has been preparing for years to respond to a health care crisis like the new coronavirus pandemic.

The past four weeks have been dedicated to preparing for and responding to COVID-19. It’s similar to what the hospital would have done for an Ebola outbreak or a hurricane, he said.

“How do we continue to maintain services for our patients today? We are one of those industries that will have to continue to keep our doors open to maintain services for our patients,” Zuino said. “If we get influxed with a group of patients, how are we responding? That requires us to look into greater detail of our people, supplies and equipment.”

Even with preparations, he said staff and patients are under increased stress when they come into the hospital.

“It’s hard work to start. You come into the hospital, you’re dealing with people who are already stressed and have things going on in terms of illness and injury and things that have impacted their lives. Now imagine people are coming in with that, plus this concern that am I going to be exposed, or do I have a risk of contracting COVID-19?” he said. “They’ve got a different level of pressure now because our patients are coming in, even more anxious than normal.”

Like other hospitals, Baptist limited visitation and isolates coronavirus patients.

Zuino said the hospital hasn’t experienced shortages of personal protective equipment. He credits that to a hospital team that did a forecast of the supplies needed if there was a surge of hundreds of coronavirus patients.

He said the hospital was able to secure “the majority, if not all” of the equipment necessary, which includes surgical masks, N95 masks and gloves.

“We have the equipment,” he said. “We’re ensuring we have a par level or enough of that equipment to sustain ourselves so that everyone feels the tools are available for what they need.”

Zuino said there is a plan to bring in workers if part of the Baptist workforce is infected.

Although the hospital has experienced hurricanes, the response to the coronavirus has been different.

“We said this is like a 100-day hurricane drill,” Zuino said. “A hurricane is a weeklong event for us. This could be a few weeks, a few months.”

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