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Napa's Queen of the Valley restoring essential surgeries; feared COVID-19 surge hasn't materialized
Health Care

Napa's Queen of the Valley restoring essential surgeries; feared COVID-19 surge hasn't materialized

From the Coronavirus roundup from the Napa Valley Register, St. Helena Star, and The Weekly Calistogan series

Back in March, Napa’s Queen of the Valley Medical Center prepared for the worst.

The hospital opened a portable triage center in its parking lot for an expected surge of coronavirus patients. Essential or elective surgeries were cancelled or postponed. Visitors were all but prohibited.

Subsequently, Queen of the Valley saw a 75% decline in surgeries, but only eight confirmed COVID-19 patients, said a hospital news release. As of May 14, there were no hospitalized Napa County coronavirus patients, the county reported.

Visits to the emergency department decreased by more than 50% in April. The number of inpatients at the Queen dropped 40% to 50% in March and April, statistics show.

Today, the Queen is relaxing some of those early precautions. The triage tents in the parking lot closed on Monday. Essential surgeries are resuming.

“Over the past two months, we have seen a steady decrease in the number of cases being hospitalized due to COVID-19,” said Larry Coomes, chief executive at Queen of the Valley.

“Based on the numbers we’re seeing, we feel it’s time to take down the tents, knowing that we can put them back up in a heartbeat if needed,” Coomes said. “We are thankful to our community members who have helped to bend the curve and we are cautiously optimistic that this trend will continue.”

“It’s important for community members to receive care when they need it; even during a pandemic, strokes and heart attacks happen and delays in treatment can result in serious complications. We are open and available to provide safe, high quality care 24/7.”

“It’s a positive sign” that the tents were no longer needed, said Darrin Mooneyham, director of critical care and emergency services. The temporary tent “unit” was screening fewer than two patients in 24 hours, he said.

“We are able to take down the tents because we haven’t seen the volume of patients we had anticipated might come to the hospital two months ago.”

Located in the parking lot by the Emergency Department entrance, the tents were initially installed on March 18, as a place to screen patients exhibiting respiratory problems or fever.

Christina Harris, a hospital spokeswoman, said that in March the American Hospital Association projected that the volume of patients the Queen could expect to see could be 10 times the volume of patients the Queen would typically see during a moderate to severe influenza season.

So far, such a surge has not materialized in Napa.

As of Thursday afternoon, there had been 83 cases of COVID-19 in Napa County and three deaths, the county reported.

Over the past two months, the Queen screened more than 200 patients with respiratory or fever-like symptoms, with the numbers steadily decreasing, said Harris.

According to the Queen’s news release, the hospital’s Emergency Department will continue to minimize any potential exposure to caregivers and other patients by screening and separating/isolating anyone with symptoms consistent with COVID-19.

In addition to patients in the Emergency Department, anyone entering the hospital — including caregivers, visitors and vendors — is asked a series of screening questions and has their temperature taken with an external thermometer, said the release.

Additional safety precautions — such as a visitor restriction policy, social distancing and universal masking — remain in effect.

“These measures of safety will continue to be the focus as the hospital thoughtfully restores and expands surgical services and procedures. The community should feel confident in seeking care,” the release stated.

Hospital leaders cautioned that “while this is a meaningful moment, we are not out of the woods yet and that it’s crucial to continue following public health orders,” the release stated.

If there is a significant increase in the number of patients, the hospital is prepared to reassemble the outdoor triage tents, said the release. They will be stored and can be set up in less than an hour if needed, said Coomes.

“Like many hospitals across the country, we are not immune to the challenges of these unprecedented times,” the news release stated.

“While the impact on our revenue has been significant, the communities we serve can rest assured we remain financially strong and have the resources necessary to continue to meet the needs of our community members not only during these unprecedented times, but for years to come.”

Editor’s note: Because of the health implications of the COVID-19 virus, this article is being made available free to subscribers and non-subscribers alike. If you’d like to join us in supporting the mission of local journalism, please visit napavalleyregister.com/members/join/

You can reach reporter Jennifer Huffman at 256-2218 or jhuffman@napanews.com

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Business Editor

Jennifer Huffman is the business editor and a general assignment reporter for the Napa Valley Register. I cover a wide variety of topics for the newspaper. I've been with the Register since 2005.

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