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COVID-19: In Bucks, St. Luke’s Hospital is prepared


Dennis Pfleiger, president of the Upper Bucks Campus of St. Luke’s Hospital, has stated that the facility has a good supply of needed materials from testing kits to N95 masks to ventilators for the anticipated wave of cases.

Pfleiger said that testing turnaround time has been shortened with a partnership with LabCorp, a health care diagnostics laboratory. More recent in-house testing has yielded 24-hour turnaround times, allowing increased personal protective equipment conservation efficiency. An Abbott Laboratories test may also help when available, cutting the testing time down to five to 13 minutes.

St. Luke’s Hospital is one of six community hospitals across Bucks County. The St. Luke’s network consists of 11 hospitals, including two in Bucks County – Upper Bucks and Quakertown. The new Upper Bucks Campus has 40 staffed hospital beds with another 20 available for surge capacity in a newly constructed wing. Ten beds are designated for critical care – 25 of the 40 beds are currently occupied.

Total staffed beds in Bucks County number 978 according to the most recent information from the American Hospital Directory Inc. There are 792,417 total community hospital beds in the country, and under 65,000 are available, according to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

While Pfleiger said that testing supplies were good, they were limited to patients and staff exhibiting clinical symptoms only.

“I think we’re ahead of the curve on this,” Pfleiger said, adding that screening and conserving resources have been key.

He stated that robust management of PPE resources by a sophisticated data management system has ensured not only a good supply but supports a universal masking protocol with all staff members including EMS. N95 masks, which demonstrate greater filtration efficiency, are reserved for patient rooms, and the stock has been bolstered by community donations. UV light disinfection allows reutilization of each N95 mask, effectively yielding six uses from a single mask.

Pfleiger also stated that being able to tap into a regional network has been important. He maintained that ventilators have been moving from campus to campus, with surge plans in place to reapportion them as needed.

“I do believe we are in fairly strong shape with our ventilator management,” Pfleiger asserted.

He added that of three COVID-positive patients at the hospital, none are on ventilators. One patient who was on a ventilator at the campus has since recovered, and nine have been on ventilators across the network. All have recovered enough to be removed from mechanical ventilatory assistance.

Pfleiger did temper his optimism by stating that the Monroe Campus of St. Luke’s “has been hit really hard.” The hospital, located in Stroudsburg, is what Pfleiger described as a developing hot spot in the state. He attributed the cases to people commuting to the Pocono area from New York City and New Jersey.

New Jersey is rapidly becoming a hot spot, and New York City continues to be a national epicenter with 76,876 cases and 4,786 deaths recorded on April 6. Pennsylvania, with 14,852 confirmed COVID-19 infections, is ranked sixth among the 50 states – 240 deaths due to the disease have been recorded in the state.

Bucks County ranks seventh in Pennsylvania with 756 cases and 22 deaths as of noon April 8. Bucks trails behind the counties of Philadelphia, Montgomery, Lehigh, Luzerne, Delaware and Northampton. Most of those counties share a border with New Jersey and all are generally clustered in the southeast portion of the state.

The United States had 386,817 confirmed cases as of April 7, which comprise more than a quarter of cases worldwide. As of Tuesday, 20,191 patients in the U.S. had recovered, accounting for 5.22 percent, and 12,285 patients – or 3.18 percent – have succumbed to the disease.

There have been 1,413,415 confirmed global cases of COVID-19. Of that number, 81,200 deaths have been attributed to the disease, accounting for a mortality rate of 5.75 percent. Internationally 21 percent, or 298,389 patients, have recovered.