In its commitment to adding the best available technology, the Lakewood Ranch Medical Center had budgeted for one piece of equipment — the RD UVC by Steriliz system that eradicates viruses, bacteria and spores from a room — with the hopes of purchasing it in the near future.
In mid-March, with the COVID-19 pandemic having taken hold, the future investment became a present priority.
Donny Long, Lakewood Ranch Medical Center's director of environmental services, was working with Steriliz in March when CEO Andy Guz took over. Steriliz executives told Long that Guz had wrapped up the purchase — usually hospitals can take weeks to approve such as purchase that can cost $75,000 or more — in a day.
It was a Sunday no less.
Long said Guz's move — termed by Steriliz executives as "aggressive" — was key during a time when the hospital was trying to achieve higher levels of safety. Long said other hospitals are now on a long waiting list for the system.
"I like to say the UVC machine is like a tanning bed, with a higher intensity light," Long said. "I place sensors in four corners of the room, put the machine in the middle of the room and close the door. In three to five minutes, it (eradicates any kind of bacteria) the light will see."
The machine can be moved to other areas of the room or furniture can be moved around so that anywhere that wasn't reached by the light can be hit the next time around.
As Lakewood Ranch Medical Center moves past the pandemic, Guz said the hospital will strive to maintain the safest environment possible, as it always has done.
"We're doing everything we used to do ... we're just adding another level of safety and sanitation," Guz said. "Here, you assume everyone has a communicable disease anyway. That's why we wear gloves and masks and gowns."
Lakewood Ranch Medical Center began elective surgeries May 5 and Guz emphasized that anyone from the community who needs a procedure will be coming to a safe facility.
"A hospital is not a place where you should be afraid of catching anything," Guz said. "No. 1, this is a safe environment. This is what we do every day, we've just added a new wrinkle. We practice social distancing in the waiting room and all the chairs, which are made of wipeable material, are sanitized. All our staff members who interact with the public are wearing masks."
Lakewood Ranch Medical Center has suspended use of its 150-plus workforce of volunteers for the time being and a hospital employee meets guests at the door now to direct them to the right location and to do a quick check to make sure they don't have any COVID-19 symptoms. Student training programs at the hospital have been suspended. Visitation continues to be suspended, although immediate family visits are determined on a case-by-case basis.
Guz said he has read about cases throughout the country where people are suffering heart attacks or strokes at home because they are worried about going to their local hospitals. He doesn't want that to be the case in Lakewood Ranch.
The hospital, on May 11, had just one COVID-19 patient (who was expected to be released later in the day). An Extended Access Unit of eight rooms was formed to serve any COVID-19 patients at the hospital.
Financially, Guz said the hospital's outlook for the year is "less robust," but he said those who delayed surgeries during the past two months have rescheduled them, creating a second "season." Usually in May, with snowbirds heading home, business slows.
He said the The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act has provided some relief for hospitals and he doesn't see a long-term impact from COVID-19.
Although the hospital's workers have been under added stress for two months, Guz said they are in high spirits.
"We're slowly getting back to something like business as usual," said John Hall, the director of surgery. Our procedures (surgeries) scheduled is booked. We're getting our numbers back. We know this has impacted the entire world."
Hall said of the approximately 100 surgeries performed since elective surgeries began again May 5, not one patient has tested positive for COVID-19 during the pre-testing.
"We have a lot of things in place to protect the community," Hall said.