Two of Utah’s largest health care providers say their facilities are not overrun and are taking steps to keep it that way
Pandemic mitigation techniques like social distancing are being done, health officials have said, to delay the spread of the COVID-19 virus and allow time for clinical interventions like antiviral drugs to be developed while the world waits for a vaccine.
Delaying the virus’ spread, or so-called flattening the curve of new cases, also gives health care providers a fighting chance to help people afflicted by the disease before the system is overrun.
On Monday, top officials from two of the state’s largest health care providers said their systems had not been inundated with patients, but that they were taking preemptive steps to keep that from happening.
Intermountain Healthcare and University of Utah Health officials announced the health systems will postpone some non-urgent elective medical procedures to prepare for an expected surge in patients needing hospitalization for COVID-19.
Park City Hospital is an Intermountain Healthcare facility.
“It is a necessary step given the number of Utahns expected to come down with COVID-19,” said Dr. Mark Briesacher in a press conference, senior vice president and chief physician executive with Intermountain Healthcare.
Briesacher was joined in the press conference by Dr. Sam Finlayson, professor and chair of the Department of Surgery at University of Utah Health. Finlayson said the situation could last weeks or months and that the measure would be reevaluated as the surge in cases starts to plateau.
Both physicians said they were looking to the example of other nations that have dealt with the outbreak, including Italy and South Korea, to try to learn from their example.
“We’re only about 10-11 days behind Italy,” Finlayson said. “Italy’s health care system has been overwhelmed. I don’t think by any means are we premature in taking these measures.”
They also said they have not yet seen a surge of patients in facilities, but they have seen an increased number of phone calls, something that Finlayson said indicates members of the public understand the situation and are following the advice of health officials.
Briesacher added that Intermountain has added 100 clinicians to the ranks of those fielding calls.
The decisions about which procedures, appointments and surgeries to postpone will be made by the specialists themselves, and Finlayson said the hospitals are being careful not to harm anyone with the postponement.
Certain treatments, like for cancer, will remain on schedule, Finlayson said.
“This really is a proactive step,” Briesacher said. “There really is going to be plenty to react to in coming days (and) weeks so we can be there for the community, be there for the state.”
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