DANVILLE — As COVID-19 positive cases surge locally, as they also are nationally, OSF officials say space for those patients needing to be hospitalized isn’t the concern.

“Right now the biggest challenge is not space; it’s nurses, personnel,” said OSF HealthCare Sacred Heart Medical Center Interim President Brad Solberg.

“We’ve seen quite the surge in the last couple of weeks,” Solberg said about cases.

But they’ve also had eight months to prepare. As predicted, in fall and going into winter and seeing more close contact among people, COVID-19 case numbers are rising.

Solberg said they watch the numbers closely.

The hospital has about 80 beds currently staffed, with 20 beds in a unit totally dedicated for taking care of COVID patients. There’s negative air pressure throughout the entire unit, with it prepared with the proper personal protective equipment.

As of a week ago, “that unit’s been virtually full for the last week,” Solberg said.

Most recently, Vermilion County has seen more than 20 COVID-positive residents hospitalized.

As a result, some COVID-positive patients also are being taken care of outside that unit, as part of their back-up expansion plans in the hospital, he said.

Solberg said diagnosis, placement and treatment of patients differ the length of stay for those needing to be hospitalized. There also can be an increased length of stay for some COVID-19 patients due to nursing homes not accepting certain patients.

Hospital officials have had discussions since the spring to also have a possible separate facility for COVID patients if needed.

Solberg said that’s still in their plans, but he wouldn’t give any more details.

Curtis Squires, community relations coordinator for OSF HealthCare, said OSF has the capacity to care for Vermilion County area residents.

Solberg said the biggest challenge is having enough nurses and hospital staff because of the increase in patients. Nurses and other personnel are working additional shifts.

“I cant say enough about our nursing staff and clinical staff...,” Solberg said.

Solberg said they recalled virtually every employee furloughed earlier in the year, and they also have some open positions within the nursing staff and through other providers in the area.

Squires also said because OSF is a large hospital system, they have the ability to pull resources from other hospitals.

“We monitor that daily,” Solberg said of bed capacity, ventilator availability and additional PPE needed.

He added they are doing OK for PPE supplies, as they watch the levels closely.

It’s a possibility the hospital could again postpone elective surgeries and certain procedures as it did in the spring. The hospital continues to limit visitors, allowing only certain support people for patients.

Squires said they continue to really promote the use of technology to help patients for telemedicine, such as with Zoom, Skype and FaceTime.

“We make sure that the level of care and the procedures that are being performed are in an environment that is safe...,” Solberg said.

“Its a very critical time,” he added, saying that COVID fatigue is real with staff and the public.

The announcement of a vaccine has people hopeful, but still will take time, he said.

“We just need to continue to be diligent,” he said.

He said everyone still needs to wash their hands, wear a mask and watch their distance.

“This thing is not going away anytime soon,” Solberg said.

This is Solberg’s fourth week in overseeing the Danville hospital. He also serves as president at OSF HealthCare Saint James — John W. Albrecht Medical Center in Pontiac.

He said they appreciate the Mission Partners stepping up and really putting in the extra time during the pandemic.

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