Dr. Michael Newkirk answers flu, COVID-19 questions

October 22, 2020

What is Baptist Health doing to prepare for a possible surge of both COVID-19 and flu patients

Michael Newkirk, MD, Baptist Health vice president of Physician Services, answers these questions and more related to both flu and COVID-19.

Dr. Newkirk provides answers to questions about what Baptist Health leaders are doing to prepare for both flu and COVID-19 patients and what you can do to protect yourself and others. 

What does it mean if or when a hospital reaches maximum capacity in relation to the flu and/or COVID-19?  
There are times, albeit very few, when a hospital needs to go on "diversion" due to a high volume of patients in the institution. When this happens, the institution works with other facilities where a patient's care can be delivered. 

What plans does Baptist Health have in place to avoid that scenario at our facilities?  
Our hospital leadership teams constantly monitor the census and make plans in advance to avoid this scenario. However, there are also "surge" plans that the leadership teams rely on that have been developed far in advance to make accommodations for patients in areas within our hospitals that are typically used in a different manner that we repurpose for patient care. 

How does it affect Baptist Health and our patients when people don't receive the flu vaccine? 
The flu vaccine is usually effective to some degree in reducing the volume of influenza infection each year. When we get a high percentage of people taking the flu shot, we have a much better chance of fewer hospitalizations.  

What are we doing to ensure we protect our patients at our locations whether they have the flu or COVID-19? 
We have put in many processes for protecting our patients and staff from diseases such as flu and COVID-19. We are pre-screening on the phone and in the office buildings for symptoms of illness. 

We have non-traditional waiting options, such as waiting in the car, as well as socially distanced waiting room configurations. Masks are required for everyone in all of our facilities. Sanitation in our facilities is always a focus but has been ramped up due to the pandemic.

How can we help protect our communities and our patients? 
Get a flu shot to protect yourself and anyone you come in contact with. Encourage your friends and family members to get vaccinated as well. 

Also, wear a mask. It really is that simple. The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that we could control COVID-19 within 8-12 weeks were everyone to wear a mask outside of their home. Also, frequent hand washing or sanitizing and avoiding places where social distancing is difficult are helpful.