Northwestern Illinois Health Care Coalition, Javon Bea Hospital, and the National Disaster Medical System Implement a Regional Approach to Health Care Coordination
In response to a surge in COVID-19 patients, Northwestern Illinois Preparedness and Response Coalition partnered with critical access hospitals and called on the National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) to manage patient surge. ASPR deployed a team of NDMS responders to Mercyhealth Javon Bea Hospital in Rockford, Illinois to establish a regional hospital decompression unit. Working together, this team significantly alleviated the strain on the health care system in northwest region of Illinois and enabled the hospital to accept patients across the state and from neighboring states, such as Iowa and Wisconsin.
In December of 2021, hospitals across the nation faced yet another surge of COVID-19 cases, caused by the Omicron variant. In addition to the lack of bed space caused by the surge, hospitals ran into additional challenges such as staffing shortages, causing a need for patient coordination support.
The Northwest Illinois Preparedness and Response Coalition, an Illinois health care coalition (HCC) established through ASPR’s Hospital Preparedness Program (HPP), began coordinating with critical access hospitals to identify open bed space to alleviate patient surge and hospital strain. When it became clear that additional assistance was needed, the HCC coordinator worked with the Illinois Department of Public Health to request support. In response, HHS ASPR deployed an NDMS team to Mercyhealth Javon Bea Hospital in Rockford, Illinois, to establish a regional hospital decompression unit.
“The nation’s health care system is severely strained due to high COVID-19 caseloads and further exacerbated by persistent staffing shortages across the healthcare sector. To help meet requests for federal support, we deployed teams to help relieve the pressure in an entire region of a state rather than supporting any one institution specifically”
- Michael W. Smith Director,
National Disaster Medical System
Together, the NDMS team and the Northwest Illinois Preparedness and Response Coalition coordinated to address the hospital surge and provide much needed relief to hospitals across the northwest region of the state. While the NDMS team focused on treating patients to alleviate the strain caused by staffing shortages, the Northwestern Illinois Preparedness and Response Coalition coordinated information sharing efforts by setting up a web-based dashboard that provided real-time information such as how many beds were occupied and where the occupants were from. In addition to the online dashboard, the HCC led daily meetings with representatives from regional hospitals, health departments, and emergency management agencies to support real-time information sharing and coordination efforts.
The Northwestern Illinois Preparedness and Response Coalition utilized employees from Mercyhealth Javon Bea Hospital to staff a Medical Operations Coordination Cell, which served as a patient transfer center. Finally, the HCC assisted with patient transportation by using its emergency medical services (EMS) relationships. The first patient transfer coordinated by the HCC involved an EMS agency who traveled four hours round trip, during a snowstorm, to pick up a patient and deliver them to the decompression unit. With federal support, this hospital was able to stand up a regional decompression unit and provide care for COVID-19 patients from the northwest region of Illinois, as well as Iowa and Wisconsin.