Good Samaritan Hospital has taken steps in response to the coronavirus pandemic in the last two weeks that in normal times would have taken a year.

That what's Adam Thacker, the hospital's chief of operations, told members of the board of governors on Monday.

Those steps include establishing the new drive-thru clinic at the Convenient Care Clinic, 1813 Willow St., to assess patients with respiratory symptoms that could be COVID-19 related.

Thacker said the clinic had had 162 visits as of Monday morning.

Over the weekend local officials announced the first positive tests for the coronavirus in Knox County. Thacker said it had only been a matter of time before the county joined the queue with the rest of the state. As of Monday morning there were only 13 of Indiana's 92 counties that hadn't yet to report at least one positive cause.

Knox County has two, and Thacker expected that number to grow in the next 4-6 weeks.

Resources that for now are meeting the needs of the local healthcare community will in the future be stretched, he said.

The board on Monday took further COVID-19 related actions. One resolution allows medical staff members to work outside of their credentialed areas if necessary.

Dr. Molly Weiss, the hospital's chief medical officer, described the practice as granting physicians “disaster privileges” to provide care where they might be needed. She stressed the doctors “won't be alone” but would be working under the supervision of an appropriately credentialed physician.

Brent Stuckey, a partner with HartBell LLC, 513 Main St., who serves as Good Samaritan's legal counsel, explained that such resolutions are now being adopted by hospital boards across the country as an appropriate response to the coronavirus.

Thom Cook, the hospital's chief financial officer, said Good Samaritan is looking to add to the 30 intensive care unit beds currently available, as the expectation is that more will be needed as COVID-19 reaches its peak in the area.

He described the expansion as a “layered process.”

“First, there's the physical plant aspect, which is finding rooms that can be adapted for the negative air-flow that's required for caring for the COVID-19 patients,” he said. “We want to contain the droplets which spread the virus, and that requires special ventilation.

“Second, there's the equipment needed for those rooms, the respirators and such,” Cook said. “And finally there's staffing, the physicians and the nurses, which we're addressing with the resolution passed by the board and with things like moving surgical nurses to ICU.

“It's a process of moving staff up a notch to meet the immediate needs and then moving staff in behind them to fill those vacant positions,” he said. “We've really limited the other services we'd normally be performing while we deal with the COVID-19 threat, so that creates some availability to shift staff around.”

Financially, the board approved the hospital's seeking a $10 million line of credit should it prove needed.

Cook said Good Samaritan was currently in good shape with cash on hand — “knock on wood.”

“Really, we're doing all right now, basically because of the 100 little things we've been doing for the last year and a half to manage our expenses and to prepare for something just like this,” he said. “The line of credit is 'just-in-case' insurance.

“It's better to be ahead of the curve than to have to scramble at the last minute,” Cook said. “We're holding our own, again because of the hard work that was done the last 18 months.”

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