Just when winter was finally slipping into the rearview mirror, Les Harrison of Olney was about to enjoy a fishing trip to Florida. Then, the world turned upside down.
Suddenly, medical facilities built to handle heart attacks and strokes were face to face with a mysterious pandemic, the likes of which hadn’t been seen for a century in the United States. As the director of Plant Services at Carle Richland Memorial Hospital (CRMH), it was his job to help keep everyone safe.
Over the next six weeks, he and his dedicated team raced to create several negative pressure environments throughout the hospital to help prevent the transmission of COVID-19. Negative pressure is an isolation technique that prevents cross contamination between rooms by using special filters and fans to draw air into one location and vent it safely outside. It was an ambitious undertaking, but with the help of generous philanthropic support from local residents, Harrison soon had everything needed in place.
Since the pandemic started in February, Carle Center for Philanthropy has received nearly $7,000 to assist CRMH with preparedness, containment and response efforts at the local hospital.
"We’re so grateful for the generosity of these donors and their desire to keep our Olney team members, patients and community safe during this pandemic," said Beth Katsinas, vice president of Carle Center for Philanthropy. "Covering the costs of this important project is just one way our donors are making a difference at Carle Richland."
"One of the first things we needed to do was set up an area to receive patients in our emergency room," Harrison said.
Working together with the ER nurse manager, they quickly found a location and installed a portable high-efficiency filtration unit strong enough to create negative pressure to the corridor.
Next it was on to the Family Maternal Services department (FMS) to ensure that any mothers with COVID-19 could give birth in a safe environment.
"The last thing we wanted to do was move things into our FMS unit where we may have some cross contamination," Harrison.Fortunately, they were able to use the old unit and delivery room nearby to set up shop.
"Those rooms are already equipped with the medical gasses and lights that are needed, so it made it the ideal place to do that," said Harrison. With the help of a contractor, they drilled through the masonry wall and installed another filtration unit, creating a safe space for new deliveries. The newly converted space also provided a place for gastrointestinal procedures, keeping the operating room available for other needs.
With a few local supplies, several portable units and physical labor, they soon had the hospital in great shape.
"The nice thing with the high-efficiency filtration units is that we’ll be able to use those for whatever we may need in the future," Harrison said.
In total, the hospital purchased four new filtration units and four shutter-type exhaust fans with donations. Currently, these units and fans are being deployed to the hospital’s intensive care, medical surgery and the medical surgery overflow units, as well as the long-term care unit on the third floor.
"This pandemic has reminded us why it’s so important to have world-class healthcare close to home," Katsinas said. "If you’ve never made a financial donation to support your local Carle hospital, now is the time." Visit carle.org/give to make a secure, online donation to Carle Center for Philanthropy. Donors may choose to direct their gift to Carle Richland Greatest Need or Carle Hospice – Richland.