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Nebraska Medicine to transition out of crisis plan beginning Monday; fewer COVID patients

Posted at 2:02 PM, Feb 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-05 10:58:12-05

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — On Monday, Nebraska Medicine will begin the transition out of the Crisis Standards of Care Plan, into contingency operations, gradually resume surgeries and other elective procedures.

Nebraska Medicine's Chief Operating Officer Cory Shaw addressed the media via a Zoom Q&A session on Friday afternoon, citing the overall decreases in COVID-19 admissions. The hospital currently has about 100 COVID patients, which is a decrease of 40 from 10 days ago.

The hospital system uses three criteria to monitor its operational status: First, the availability of hospital staff; second, the total adult inpatient census; finally, the COVID census (number of COVID patients). Additional factors including the test positivity rate and the volume of testing are used to forecast for decision-making.

"We're pretty close to the right level of staffing, generally, that we need to be in order to care for the volume of patient activity that we are seeing today. We do have pockets where we still have some challenges but we are able to manage around those," Shaw said.

Shaw says the time is right to begin moving back to regular operations. But, adds they're going to continue to monitor the situation and ensure they're not opening up too much too quickly.

"That said, we don't have a sufficient complement of staff to go back to a complete standard operation or conventional operating status where all of our ORs, all of our clinics, all of our outpatient centers are fully open and functioning. We're still going to continue to need to meter activity in those spaces to make sure that we don't end up with too much activity too quickly in our clinics or in our hospitals."

The hospital system has been operating within the confines of the crisis plan since Jan. 13. The measure was enacted in response to the surge of the omicron variant, which was breaching area hospital capacities while a large amount of hospital personnel were absent due to testing positive for COVID-19 themselves, or waiting for negative test results. The crisis standards of care plan mainly affected elective surgeries and procedures in the D and E categories, patient transfers, and clinical trials.

On Friday, Gov. Pete Ricketts and DHHS announced that the Directed Health Measure will expire on Monday to coincide with the transition out of the Crisis Standard of Care Plan.

Shaw says while the hospital system was operating under crisis standards of care, they either canceled, postponed, or delayed around 600 procedures.

In the next week, the hospital system will be contacting patients whose appointments and procedures had been postponed over the course of the last three weeks.

"We're still in the midst of a pandemic," Shaw said. "So we've experienced this peak, and so we've climbed, we've plateaued and now we're beginning to decline. We still have a few weeks to go here in terms of seeing our hospitals statewide return to a fall-level of COVID activity which at that time we were still being heavily affected by the delta variant. So I think whether it's Nebraska Medicine or any other healthcare provider in the state, I think it's important for everyone to understand this isn't over."

Though Nebraska Medicine will no longer be operating under crisis standards of care, the hospital is reminding the public that the hospital census, or number of patients, is still high as is the risk of COVID-19 in the community. Therefore, it will remain in contingency levels and this is not yet a mark to transition to full-fledged operations, which Shaw estimates would bring an additional average of 40 to 60 patients per day.

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