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Prep continues at old hospital site, precautions a constant at CMH

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Editor’s Note: In an effort to inform our communities about changes at VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital, we are releasing this additional information about the stand up of the old hospital building on Buena Vista Circle and precautions taken routinely by CMH in dealing with infectious diseases.

“As VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital continues to prep the old CMH on Buena Vista to possibly accept patients, we felt it was important to let the community know about precautions we at the hospital take daily to help control the spread of this virus and other infectious diseases and to protect our patients, staff and the community as a whole,” said Scott Burnette, CEO of CMH. 

He explained, “At CMH we have taken extensive precautions through the years to protect everyone from the spread of infectious diseases. That was true in 1954 and it is true today, although medical research has provided us with many more tools over the years. There are important steps each and every employee takes to reduce the possibility of spreading a disease to patients, other staff members and the community.”

“We practice a strict regimen in what is called donning and doffing of personal protective equipment (PPE). Every employee who works in direct patient care has been specifically trained in this thorough procedure that protects everyone,” he said.  

This protective equipment includes disposable gowns, gloves, masks and eye protection. Further, as staff members put on (don) or take off (doff) the PPE, an observer is to be present to make sure the procedure is followed correctly. 
“When infectious diseases are present and those diseases have an airborne component like COVID-19, patients are placed in what is called a negative pressure room or can be managed by leaving the patient room door closed to the hallway at all times,” he added.  

Negative pressure rooms bring in air from the hallway outside the room at all times and then the air in the room is exhausted through the roof at CMH where it dissipates and is no longer an issue. 

Burnette explained that if a COVID positive patient is in a negative pressure room, the airborne virus cannot escape the room except being expelled harmlessly through the roof.

Employees remove their PPE in a very specific manner at the door of the negative pressure room before exiting the room and wash their hands during each step of removing their equipment. This keeps those staff members and others safe from contact with the airborne virus. 

Burnette explained that this procedure is utilized at hospitals across the country and is the accepted practice of the World Health Organization and the Centers For Disease Control with the federal government.

But he added that everyone has a responsibility to help slow or stop the spread of infectious diseases.

“The most important thing everyone can do is practice social distancing.  Six feet is the magic number.  Staying six feet away from people, being careful what you touch, avoid touching your face and washing your hands often with soap and water or sanitizer is the best way to slow or stop the progression of this virus,” Burnette said. 

Burnette said that the decision to prepare the old hospital to possibly receive patients was appropriate and necessary.

"Preparing the old hospital for COVID-19 patients is a precautionary step to make sure we have the capacity to handle any and all patients who present at CMH.  If precautions are not put into motion right now there could be a scenario where people in our community, our friends or family, could be in need of health care and CMH would not have room for them.  Having the CMH facility on Buena Vista Circle available as an option is a way to prevent this horrible scenario from taking place.  We are in the business of providing the best possible care for our patients and having this facility available to us will give us the best chance to do just that."  

If anyone has questions about COVID-19 they should visit the CDC website at: cdc.gov.