April 2, 2020 – The collective strengths of The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center have never been more evident—nor more called upon—than during the COVID-19 pandemic. One month into Ohio’s battle to contain this highly contagious virus, 27% of the state’s COVID-19 cases require hospitalization and 8% of patients are being admitted to intensive care units. With numbers growing daily, and even with hospitals scaling back—currently to 54% capacity—the state has begun scouting for vacant facilities in anticipation of a surge in the patient caseload that is projected for mid- to late April.
Leading the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center through this pandemic, Hal Paz, MD, executive vice president and chancellor for Health Affairs at The Ohio State University, has provided clear and consistent direction for the health system, its employees, patients and their families. Additionally, the protocols and networks established over the years have proved to be cohesive and flexible in a crisis. Staff at every level is wholly committed to the work that is necessary to save lives.
Medical center leadership, staff and medical teams began preparing for the coronavirus even before the first Ohio case surfaced on March 8. Across the medical center a proactive, comprehensive and coordinated plan was implemented to prioritize the health and safety of the workforce and protect patients and their families from exposure as the medical center began caring for COVID-19 patients. Like hospitals across the state, we postponed nonessential surgeries to free up beds for COVID-19 patients, reducing occupancy statewide from 70% to 60%. We made the difficult but necessary decision to prohibit visitors except for maternity, end-of-life and minor patients. All staff record a temperature check before beginning work each day.
We work in concert with Governor Mike DeWine’s office and Ohio Director of Health Amy Acton, MD, PhD, who is a former Ohio State professor and College of Public Health alumna. In addition to treating patients, we assist state efforts to contain the spread of the disease and slow its advance. For weeks, our drive-through testing stations have helped amass critical modeling data that supports state planning. With test results increasingly critical, Dr. Acton issued an order on April 1st, requiring hospitals without the ability to conduct their own testing to send their samples to an Ohio hospital with testing capability instead of a private lab, which take longer to process results. The Wexner Medical Center is one of three Ohio hospitals with a research lab processing test results for COVID-19.
The Wexner Medical Center has more than 50 research projects underway that are aimed at combatting COVID-19. In several of them, we are working in partnership with Columbus-based Battelle. Ohio State and Battelle developed a rapid, sensitive diagnostic test for COVID-19 that has the capability to produce 1,000 test results a day. The medical center began administering the tests on March 31 after receiving FDA approval a day earlier. We also worked with Battelle as it developed a process for sterilizing N-95 surgical masks that received FDA approval on March 29. Battelle has the ability to process 80,000 masks a day for Ohio hospitals, and sent sterilizing equipment to New York, Washington, D.C. and Seattle.
Around the world, shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE), such as gowns, gloves and masks, have left health care workers and patients vulnerable in locations where the virus has overwhelmed health systems and hospitals. At least 18% of Ohio’s health care employees are infected. That includes at least six Wexner Medical Center nurses. We are taking every precaution to protect staff on the front lines and their patients by tracking PPE according to strict protocols while working to acquire more protective gear. Meanwhile, we are using iPads in hospital rooms for patient communication to reduce the number of times health care workers need to enter patients’ rooms.
“The situation is fluid and we respond as soon as new information becomes available,” the medical center said in a statement. “We currently have the (PPE) supply needed for our health care workers to properly care for our patients, and we’re taking every possible measure to maintain our supplies.”
As we look ahead, we are preparing for this crisis to push the Ohio to its limits. Dr. Paz told staff that drastic the measures being taken today will prepare us all for the next phase that is to come:
“If we do not take drastic, coordinated measures—not just here at Ohio State, not just in central Ohio or across the state, but as a country—we run the risk of overwhelming the health care capacity of people we are able to treat at one time. But above all else, the most important thing we can do to protect our community is to protect our health care workers to ensure we have the clinicians and staff we need to continue caring for our patients.”
-Chancellor Hal Paz, MD
Drive-up testing at the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center
Drive-up testing is available at the Jameson Crane Sports Medicine Institute and East Hospital. If you are experiencing symptoms, call 614‑293‑4000 to see if you need to be tested. If testing is indicated, you will be registered. You cannot be tested without being triaged and registered.
Insurance costs under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act:
- Under the act, the evaluation and testing for COVID-19 will be covered at 100% with no out-of-pocket costs.
- No Prior Authorization will be required, and there will be no network restrictions placed upon where members can be evaluated and tested.
- If you have questions, contact your health care provider.
How you can help
Donate and MoreDonate by phone or online, drop off supplies and other ways to help
Give by MailThe James/Wexner Medical Center Development Office
c/o The OSU Foundation
PO Box 710811
Columbus, OH 43271-0811