Updated 5:35 pm
The Martha’s Vineyard Hospital has tested 35 patients for COVID-19, but has had zero hospitalizations to date, according to hospital CEO Denise Schepici.
In a conference call with reporters Monday, Schepici — along with communications director Katrina Delgadillo and chief clinical and quality officer Claire Seguin — reiterated the message from the hospital’s parent company, Partners Healthcare, that because the Island has a lack of resources people who are coming from off-Island to “ride out the virus” should stay away.
“We have limited bed capacity, we are not a hospital that can handle a surge,” Schepci said. “We have limited medical resources. We are okay right now, but they are dwindling daily. We don’t have enough staff.”
On Sunday, the Steamship Authority released statistics that show increased activity. According to the data, compared with the first 15 days of March last year, there have been 264 additional vehicle trips to the Island with Massachusetts addresses and 102 additional vehicle trips by customers with New York or New Jersey addresses. Customers from other New England states, besides Massachusetts, were down 21.
A surge would happen if the number of patients ill or coming to the hospital exceeds the hospital’s capacity to treat those patients.
As of Monday, the number of confirmed cases in Massachusetts has jumped to 777, according to the Department of Public Health.
“We are preparing for an influx of positives,” Schepici said in part. “We know that we’ve had people travelling, we know that we’ve had people not self-quarantining, we know that before we really got the word out people were not taking us seriously. And we’ve had a positive patient who had a lot of community contact so, yes, we expect this to get worse. So does the whole state.”
On Wednesday, the hospital will shut-down the building to all non-clinical staff. Staff allowed in the building will be required to wear masks. Employees will have a separate entrance from the triage tent set up out front.
People wishing to donate supplies to the hospital such as masks and gowns are asked to email email@example.com to coordinate intake and drop-off.
Officials with Partners have also asked for National Guard resources to help protect hospital staff. If there was a surge, Schepici said, the Island’s limited number of law enforcement and hospital staff would not be able to protect hospital employees.
“To help us with logistics and to help us with some of the security needs we might have. They can help us set up tents, they can help us with crowd control. It’s just not something my employees can withstand if they’re trying to care for patients.”
Schepici commended hospital staff for working hard and keeping people safe, but said everyone is nervous about a potential community spread of COVID-19.
“Everybody is really nervous about increasing numbers and spread,” Schepici said. “It’s a very concerned workforce and yet they come in every day…they’re standing at the frontlines ready to get this thing.”
As far as setting up a shelter elsewhere, Seguin said that is in official’s minds, but for now, the hospital is focused on making sure there is space at the current hospital. Patients with COVID-19 are treated as Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) patients, a treatment protocol that hospital staff are “well-versed in.”
The hospital will be holding a virtual town meeting on Wednesday, March 25, at 2 pm on the COVID-19 crisis. The public can access the town meeting through MVTV on channel 13 or online at mvhcoronavirus.com. The login information for the website is Password: guest and email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The hospital previously reported it conducted 46 tests, but has changed that to 35. Included information on virtual town meeting. — Ed.