Without ICU, DECH prepares response to COVID-19

by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

Though no cases of COVID-19 have yet been detected in Washington County, Down East Community Hospital in Machias has implemented plans to respond.

The hospital is in possession of two ventilators and has not had an intensive care unit (ICU) for many years. DECH spokesperson Julie Hixson said in a worst-case scenario, the hospital could create a makeshift ICU to accommodate three patients. Normally, critically-ill patients are transferred to other hospitals outside Washington County but if that becomes impossible, DECH can set up makeshift hospitals.

“We have places that can be set up...such as the Cobscook Institute (formerly Cobscook Bay Learning Center), the University of Maine at Machias dormitories, the Sunrise Care Facility Building in Jonesport, and the SuperTek Building,” wrote Hixson. “We would have to rely upon the Washington County Emergency Preparedness system for cots and other supplies for those facilities that do not have beds.”

As a critical access hospital, DECH is normally limited to the use of 25 beds. However, recently relaxed regulations mean DECH can double that capacity to 50 beds.

Hixson reports that, over the past three weeks, DECH has been averaging five inpatients and 12-14 patients per day in the emergency department. That number fluctuates and is sometimes as high as 10 inpatient and 28 emergency room patients per day.

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