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Daily Journal
     March 30, 2020      #44-90 KDJ

Just in case: Local hospitals prepare for the

By Lee Provost

KANKAKEE — Riverside Healthcare’s top official said the hospital is ready for an influx of patients should there be a surge in local COVID-19 cases.

Phil Kambic, president and CEO, said the hospital has 60 isolation rooms and could even create additional rooms if the need arose, though he noted that he would rather not see such a rise in needed isolated bed space.

Phil Kambic, Riverside Healthcare president and CEO, shown here discussing the first COVID-19 case last week, addressed issues regarding the virus and the hospital’s readiness during a Thursday program with Kankakee Mayor Chasity Wells-Armstrong. Daily Journal/Tiffany Blanchette/

He discussed the hospital’s preparedness efforts with Kankakee Mayor Chasity Wells-Armstrong during Thursday’s “Kankakee Chats” livestream. Wells-Armstrong has been hosting regular livestream sessions in an effort to get out information regarding efforts in the community to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

He said the hospital is also equipped with tented areas to handle a sudden increase in emergency room visits. However, he noted, visits to the ER have actually decreased as people are staying away from hospitals as a means of not exposing themselves to the virus.

In Watseka, Iroquois Memorial Hospital is setting up a tent as part of its emergency preparedness.

In Watseka, a team at Iroquois Memorial Hospital is setting up a tent as part of its emergency preparedness

“While it is our hope that we will not need the tent, we are preparing to serve our community if the need arises,” it was noted on the hospital’s Facebook page.

To date, 20 people from Kankakee County have tested positive for COVID-19. As of Thursday, Kambic said 11 of those cases have come through Riverside. He noted 45 tests have come back negative for the virus and there are still 29 tests awaiting results.

Riverside Healthcare paramedic Bruce Lane works inside an ambulance at the Kankakee hospital. Daily Journal/File

Kambic noted Riverside has been sending its test swabs to the world-renowned Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. It’s been taking about 2-3 days for results to return.

At AMITA Health St. Mary’s Hospital in Kankakee, Timothy A. Nelson, system director of communications and media relations, said, “I can tell you that all AMITA Health hospitals are fully staffed and are working hard to prepare for possible patient increases due to the pandemic.”

They are caring for 98 patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 throughout the entire AMITA system.

Local health officials all agree that the number of COVID-19 cases is expected to rise. Kankakee County Health Department administrator John Bevis said his department’s staff is working around the clock to investigate all cases.

As of Thursday, Kambic noted that Illinois, a state of about 12 million people, has only been testing people at the rate of about 3,000 per week.

“Testing is very limited,” he said.

He also noted during the mayor’s program that the hospital has put off elective surgeries in an effort to free up doctors, rooms and equipment.

Kambic reminded residents that the best protection against the virus is washing hands, getting rest and keeping distance from others.

“If you normally wash you hands 10 times a day, wash them 20 times,” he said.

During Thursday’s program, Wells-Armstrong said that despite all the obstacles, city government and its services must continue. She also noted she is in contact with local, state and national leadership regarding the illness.

“It’s easy to get misinformation,” she said. “We are living in a crisis across the world. We don’t think we’ve seen the worst of it, but this will end at some point. It will end."

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