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This page offers all of Delaware Public Media's ongoing coverage of the COVID-19 outbreak and how it is affecting the First State. Check here regularly for the latest new and information.

Delaware hospitals juggle return to operations with COVID management

Beebe Healthcare
Beebe Healthcare

Leaders at Delaware hospitals say they’re looking take steps towards a return to normal while remaining prepared for a potential resurgence of COVID-19.

With the start of the state’s phase one reopening on June 1st, Delaware hospitals resumed performing elective surgeries deemed medically necessary and time sensitive. This came after months of postponing most elective surgeries out of fear of spreading the coronavirus. Some, like cosmetic surgeries, are still being postponed.

“We’re making an effort to incrementally get back to normal operations to connect with the community around their health needs that they have been putting off for a period of time while we continue to remain focused on caring for members of our community with COVID-19,” said ChristianaCare COO Sharon Kurfuerst. 

Hospital staff statewide continue to wear PPE and check temperatures of anyone who walks through the door.

Health systems say staff continue to be tested for the virus regularly and limits on patient visitations remain in place, but Kurfuerst says the visitation policy will be reviewed at the end of the month.

Many hospitals were rearranged at the start of the pandemic to make room for more beds for COVID-19 patients and some set up alternative care sites in case a surge in patients overwhelmed existing medical infrastructure. Those facilities were ultimately unused and have been dismantled, but officials say they can be redeployed in as little time as 48 hours. 

“So the auxiliary hospitals that have been set up—that have been planned for, for which training has been undertaken—those are still ready to go, should there be a need in the fall,” said Delaware Healthcare Association President and CEO Wayne Smith.

COVID-19 hospitalizations reached their peak in Delaware on April 27 with 337 statewide. As of Tuesday, the state reports 108.

Patients aren’t the only ones glad to see a return to elective procedures and diagnostic tests as several Delaware health systems say they lost significant revenue during the peak of the pandemic.

Nanticoke Memorial is a small rural hospital in Sussex County which recently affiliated itself with Peninsula Regional Health System to help with financial struggles. Its President Penny Short says Nanticoke was losing about $1 million in revenue each week while the procedures were postponed.

“We’ve certainly seen our own struggles here, but hopefully with starting to return to normal operations we’ll start to see some of that turn back around,” said Short.

Beebe Healthcare resumed surgeries at its outpatient center on June 1st and says it will start elected surgeries at its main campus next week where officials say about 17 COVID-19 patients are currently admitted.

Beebe President and CEO Dr. David Tam sits on Gov. John Carney’s Pandemic Resurgence Advisory Committee scheduled to meet for the first time Friday. Tam says testing capacity is the key to protecting the state against a resurgence of the virus.

“Testing and continuing to monitor the infection rate in the community is one of the first ways for us, as a health system, to know if there’s going to be an increase in the number of patients coming to the hospital requiring those intensive care services,” said Tam.