Passavant hospital team provides update on response to coronavirus cases in North Hills - North Journal

Passavant hospital team provides update on response to coronavirus cases in North Hills

Tuesday, May 5, 2020 | 4:17 PM

A team of experts from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center say the initial surge of coronavirus cases in the North Hills appears to be leveling out, but pockets of people infected with the potentially deadly virus remain.

The team — UPMC President Susan Hoolahan and doctors David Rice, Nicole Wheeler and James Boyle — provided an assessment of the the hospital system’s response to the coronavirus outbreak during an online briefing with members of the media Tuesday.

“Six or seven weeks ago, it seemed like the communities in the North Hills and even the northern counties of Beaver, Butler and Lawrence, came to the party a little early with some evidence of community spread and a fair number of admissions to local hospitals, including Passavant,” said Boyle, vice president of medical affairs at UPMC Passavant.

“Our number here in the North Hills seemed to be a bit higher than what we were seeing through the UPMC system,” Boyle said. “But as things moved along, they seem to have settled down here, maybe even a little bit ahead of other communities.”

An interactive map showing where coronavirus cases are located in Allegheny County can be viewed on the county health department’s website.

Boyle said the majority of patients infected with coronavirus in the North Hills are in senior living communities “and little pockets here and there.”

“Most of cases here don’t appear to be from community spread,” he said. “Our senior living faculties have kind of kept the outbreak going in the community.”

Rice, who serves as UPMC Passavant’s medical director, supported Boyle’s assessment, saying it has been several weeks since a patient outside of a senior living facility has tested positive for covid-19 at the hospital in McCandless.

“The last several patients have been potentially known positives from nursing homes who have had a progression of their illness and need acute care,” Rice said, adding that the recent cases contrast sharply with ones reported when the outbreak was first identified.

“We were seeing a fairly consistent pattern of multiple family and household members were sick with either proven coronavirus or who were not tested but highly suspected” of having the virus, Rice said. “But I have not seen that here in a few weeks. I certainly get the sense that things are slowing down from a community standpoint.”

Nursing home patients are particularly susceptible to covid-19 symptoms because they typically are older and have a greater number of underlying medical conditions that make them vulnerable.

Rice said community efforts to slow the spread of the virus such as social distancing, wearing protective coverings appear to be working.

“The community has done a wonderful job of doing what was requested and needed of them to protect us, as a health-care community, from getting overwhelmed,” he said. “We appreciate the fact that people were willing to make the sacrifices because this really could have gone in a very different direction. It really could have been very bad.”

While hospital staff continues to emphasize caring for patients who have contracted covid-19, Hoolahan stressed that people who feel they need medical treatment should not put off a hospital visit out of fear of being exposed to the coronavirus.

“UPMC has been ramping up our ability to test patients (for coronavirus) so that we can provide a safe environment for people coming in for essential and elective surgeries moving forward,” she said, adding that a number of other steps are being taken to contain the spread of the virus.

Those measures include:

• Limiting access to its facilities

• A health screening for workers, patients and visitors

• Requiring protective masks

• Social distancing in waiting rooms and other public areas

• Cleaning and sanitizing facilities.