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Daily Journal
     April 10, 2020      #84-101 KDJ

Riverside CEO: 'We're going to be OK' 

By Lee Provost

KANKAKEE — Wearing a surgical mask constructed from Chicago Cubs-branded fabric, Riverside Healthcare President and CEO Phil Kambic gave local media a tour of what the hospital has put in place in case a rush of COVID-19 patients hits the hospital.

Of course, Kambic and other Riverside Medical Center personnel say they hope these plans are not needed to be enacted, but the hospital stands ready.

“We’re going to be OK,” Kambic said near the conclusion of an approximate two-hour session with media members. “Just be cautious and do the right thing.”

Currently, Riverside has 10 COVID-19 patients at the hospital. Testing for the virus continues, with saliva samples being sent and returned on a two- to three-day cycle from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

However, if all goes as planned, that portion of the equation may be eliminated within the next three weeks.

Kambic said Riverside will be equipped with sample-testing equipment and all that’s needed is the go-ahead from the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments, which regulate laboratory testing.

Three federal agencies are responsible for CLIA: The Food & Drug Administration, Center for Medicaid Services and the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.

When that certification is complete, test results confirming or denying the presence of the coronavirus could be determined within the same day, most likely within a few hours.

That would be a welcomed relief to those who require the testing due to presence of symptoms, but hospital officials stressed that does not mean tests will be conducted on anyone who shows up at the hospital’s emergency room.


Kathy O’Grady, Riverside’s vice president clinical services, said the hospital is capable of doing 300 tests a day, but noted that is not the plan. She said testing will be conducted only as symptoms — such as persistent high fever, tiredness and dry cough — warrant. Difficulty breathing is a symptom associated with a severe case of COVID-19.

The vast majority of people who have been hospitalized as a result of the virus have pre-existing medical issues.

Dr. Keith Moss, Riverside’s chief of staff, also stressed that 80 percent of people who contract the virus have no need of testing nor hospitalization. Many do not even realize they have contracted the virus.

Moss noted those who show up seeking the test will not get it. Instead, most people will be sent home with the instruction of getting adequate rest so the body can fight the virus.

In another big move in the ER, the hospital increased its negative pressure room capacity from one to eight. Negative pressure rooms are those which hold infectious patients. Basically, a negative pressurized room dispels the air in the room to the outside rather than recirculating it throughout that area, which helps eliminate potential spread of illness.


All medical experts note much the same when it comes to fighting this illness. Their advice is simple: get rest, wash hands and stay away from public places. They also said wearing the doctor/nurse surgical masks provides the benefit of not spreading the virus.

They noted cloth surgical masks should be washed on a regular basis. A throw-away type mask should last someone 4 to 6 days and can only be used until they become wet.

Kambic noted the emergency room traffic has dropped significantly. Prior to the illness, RMC’s ER saw about 150 patients. Within the past three weeks, the daily count is down to about 50.

He also noted surgeries at the hospital are down significantly, with about only one-third of the normal surgery load being completed. He noted, however, that surgeries can only safely be pushed back for only so long due to potential damage or danger of not having the procedure completed.

“It’s my fear that people who should be coming in for some care are not coming in due to the fear of contracting the virus,” Kambic said.

ER traffic down

Emergency room traffic at Riverside has dropped significantly. Prior to the illness, RMC's ER saw about 150 patients. Within the past three weeks, the daily count is down to about 50.

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