The Plant City hospital has adapted to treat the novel coronavirus and has had the good fortune of not being overwhelmed by it.
With several of Hillsborough County’s COVID-19 positive cases hailing from Plant City, the area hasn’t been immune from the virus’s effects. But South Florida Baptist Hospital, which has experienced it firsthand, was armed with a plan and has been able to weather the storm thus far.
“We did a lot of preparation during the early weeks of COVID preparing the hospital and our team members in case we got the large numbers we’d been seeing in other states,” hospital president Karen Kerr said.
On a team level, the hospital left no stone unturned. SFBH doubled down on training procedures in March to make sure all hands on deck could help if needed. Whether they were trained in the past or had none, staff members were trained on the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) to make sure “everybody was comfortable” if they needed to use the equipment. Seating in the cafeteria has been spread far apart as one way to practice social distancing in an area where people can’t wear their masks — which, obviously, would make eating food difficult if not impossible. It loaded up on hand sanitizers and antiseptics and increased their availability throughout the hospital.
“You hear a lot about the doctors and nurses, but there’s a larger team in the hospital,” Kerr said. “Our respiratory therapists, radiology and imaging folks as well as our environmental services team, facility team, the whole team has really come together to provide the care to all our patients whether they have COVID-19 or if they’re other patients. I think something that I like to stress is it really is a team effort. We’ve had a great team response within our organization during the last six weeks.”
Anyone who comes to the hospital will get their temperature checked, even if they’re not displaying any symptoms. If a person at the door has a temperature, everyone coming in is given a mask to wear. SFBH has also shut down nearly all kinds of visitation, only making an exception for families with children present. As testing availability grows and access expands, Kerr said, she expects the hospital to see increases there.
Though Kerr declined to give many details about how many COVID-19 cases the hospital has treated and how many COVID-19 patients have been discharged, SFBH did recently celebrate one patient’s success story. The man was discharged April 24 and the hospital filmed his exit, in which dozens of staff members lined both sides of the hallway to give him a “clap-out” as he was wheeled out to a family member. The video is on the hospital’s Facebook page.
The hospital has also had to treat at least 11 patients with COVID-19, all hailing from the Community Care Center nursing facility — where the state confirmed 82 cases this week.
“We’ve been able to handle it,” Kerr said. “We have plenty of beds available in the system to take care of patients who come into our organization.”
The next big thing at the hospital is the return to being able to perform elective surgeries. After six weeks of putting them on the shelf, Governor Ron DeSantis brought them back as part of the first phase of his “Safe. Smart. Step-by-Step.” plan for Florida’s reopening, which began Monday. Kerr said the six-week hiatus impacted the organization and the team, but that they were prepared to jump back in and handle the situation as needed.
“I think it’s certainly an evolving learning experience,” Kerr said. “As we go back into the business of elective procedures, we’re going to continue some of the measures we’ve already put in place. It will probably change over time, but as we start doing elective procedures again we’re going to continue to check anybody in that’s coming into the organization to make sure they haven’t had any symptoms.”