Beebe prepares for patient surge

Protective gear used judiciously
April 3, 2020

Beebe Healthcare is taking steps to prepare for the surge of COVID-19 patients, and it is coming, officials say.

Dr. David Tam, president and chief executive officer for Beebe Healthcare, shared information April 1 in a video town hall to let the public know what to expect when the surge in patients and morbidity comes as a result of this coronavirus pandemic.

For now, he said, there are enough masks, gowns and other personal protective equipment for healthcare workers, but they are using the items judiciously so that they have them when they need them.

“As we expect the surge of patients to increase, and knowing this is a pandemic that affects the entire world, we expect supplies will become scarce as time moves forward,” Tam said.

“There will come a point where there will not be enough to be distributed,” Tam said. “We are preparing for that by being very careful about how we allocate our resources at this time.”

Rick Schaffner, executive vice president and chief operating officer for Beebe Healthcare, said Beebe has developed a four-phase surge plan to methodically increase capacity as patients come to the campus. “And we believe they will come to our campus,” he said.

The hospital has 210 beds, he said, but the hospital can use nontraditional areas for patient care if needed. In a previous conference, officials said the cafeteria was an area that could be used.

“We believe we are very well prepared for this,” Schaffner said. “We are confident in our ability to manage the surge, and we will continue to do that.”

Dr. William Chasanov, infectious disease physician, said Beebe has medications available for patients who become critically ill. These include hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, he said.

“We have a protocol in place and have secured these medications, and if certain guidelines are met, we are able to use these medicines,” Chasanov said.

Expanded testing

Schaffner said COVID-19 testing has been expanded to Beebe's facilities in Long Neck, Georgetown, and the South Coastal Health Campus in Millville.

He said he expects Beebe will have in-house testing within the next two weeks.

Beebe is considered a Tier II facility, which means the area doesn't have the COVID-19 spread that Tier I areas such as New York are experiencing.

Still, he said, people should be screened on a regular basis, which includes taking one's temperature every day. Fever, body aches, runny nose, and diarrhea are some symptoms that have presented in positive COVID-19 cases.

“We believe everyone needs to be screened, and screened on a regular basis,” he said, adding a physician would determine if a test is needed. If a physician prescribes a test, then a test would be scheduled at one of the testing facilities.

“Testing prematurely will not really help you or help us in terms of negating the spread,” he said.

Beebe offers a screening line at 302-645-3200.

Staff training

Although Beebe has decreased the volume of patient care per Centers for Disease Control recommendations, Tam said the facility is keeping healthcare caregivers on staff, and cross training them so they will be able to help wherever needed when the surge occurs.

“When the surge comes, all of us can work together as a team without worrying about retraining or doing something that somebody might not be comfortable doing,” he said.

Tam said he also has kept staff employed, so that they feel comfortable, stable and know that they will continue to get a paycheck.

All healthcare workers at Beebe's main campus in Lewes are screened every day when they arrive at work, Schaffner said.

“All team members across our system are monitoring themselves as well,” he said. “Again, it goes to the screening. That's probably the most important step that we can all take.”

Beebe donations

Marcy Jack, vice president and chief quality and safety officer, said Beebe has enough masks at this time, but they are reviewing supplies and adapting their personal protective equipment practice, and reusing equipment at times. “We also will use PPE that is beyond the manufacturer-designated shelf life … also known as expired products,” she said. “However, we make sure the integrity of those products is able to give safe protection to staff.”

Jack said Beebe has received equipment from national and state stockpiles that may have been expired, but can still offer protection.

She said Beebe has also received homemade cloth masks from members of the community, and Beebe has a template for people to use if they want to make them. The template can be found at

“We hope to never have to use those masks,” she said. “But if our personal protective equipment runs short, we would have that mask rather than nothing.”

Tom Protack, president of Beebe Medical Foundation, said a new fund to raise money to fight the COVID-19 pandemic raised $355,000 in one week. The bulk of the money came from a $250,000 Freeman Foundation donation, but Protack said they welcome all donations no matter how big or small.

“All monies will go toward all expenses that have been unexpected,” he said. “It will go to the extra PPE that we've been purchasing, the new testing technology, and all the items that will help keep our team members and our community safe.”

Beebe town hall April 6

Beebe Healthcare will hold a one-hour COVID-19 virtual town hall at 5 p.m. Monday, April 6.

The virtual town hall will be shown live on Beebe’s Facebook page, or by dialing a phone number and entering a PIN to confirm.

The numbers are:

• 415-466-7000 with PIN 6947511#

• 760-699-0393 with PIN 1139268796 #

Panelists will include Dr. David Tam, president and chief executive officer, Beebe Healthcare; Rick Schaffner, executive vice president and chief operating officer; Dr. William Chasanov, infectious disease physician; and Marcy Jack, vice president and chief quality and safety officer. Each panelist will answer some pre-submitted questions from the public during their talk.

Only one question per person is accepted; to submit a question email

For more information about COVID-19, go to




Subscribe to the Daily Newsletter