Interview with Covenant Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Craig Rhyne

Mar 27, 2020

During a joint press conference with Covenant Medical Center and University Medical Center, Texas Tech Public Media spoke with Covenant's chief medical officer, Dr. Craig Rhyne.

For those people who need to be hospitalized, what’s the capacity at Covenant?

We have a dedicated unit that’s going to be nothing but COVID cases, or suspected COVID cases, for the next short while. Now, we’re starting with an eight-bed unit. We have the opportunity to expand to many more rooms than that if we need to. One of the things that we will be doing, we will be segregating those patients that do come down with COVID and require ventilatory support, those will be on one unit and if we are forced to, we will open a second unit also with the appropriate environment to house them, for those patient that require hospitalization that do not require ventilatory support.

We’ve done an entire inventory of the number of ventilators that we have—pediatric, neonatal, adult ventilators, the number of anesthesia machines we have—we have those numbers. And we know that we’re in pretty good shape. We know that we can adapt some of the things we would normally use for elective surgery to take care of COVID patients if the need arises.

So those are the things that we are doing and we have tremendous preparation underway to deal with this. Thank goodness the avalanche of patients has not occurred yet and we’re hoping that it does not.

Can you give specific numbers on those ventilators?

I can give broad numbers…we have about 80 total ventilators in the covenant health system. We have 60 plus anesthesia machines and the total number of ICU beds is 137 ICU beds at Covenant. So, we have lots of capacity. We can be flexible. We’re starting small, as we should. There’s no point in turning the whole hospital into a COVID unit at this point because we haven’t hospitalized very many patients yet.

We do know that we have the ability to isolate those patients in a very controlled environment with minimal contacts with caregivers, so that our caregivers that are taking care of them are not moving to other units and potentially taking any virus particles with them. So, we’re doing everything we can do to be responsible healthcare organizations and asking our patients to be responsible patients as well.

Do you know how our capacity compares to other places?

I do not. I couldn’t even draw a comparison. I would say that we probably are in really good shape. The majority of hospitals don’t have anywhere near that kind of reserve. So, I’m very pleased with the numbers that we have come up with and being part of a bigger system, we have the opportunity to ask for assistance and equipment from our sister institutions if need be.