City of AustinFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The health authority has put a plan in place to set up Alternative Care Sites (ACS) to handle high demands on the system.
Austin-Travis County officials are preparing a network of emergency backup medical facilities in case regular services are overwhelmed by a surge in COVID-19 cases.
As the number of cases and deaths continues to rise across Austin-Travis County, and updated models from the lab of Lauren Ancel-Meyers at the University of Texas at Austin indicate a likely surge in infections, the health authority has put a plan in place to set up Alternative Care Sites (ACS) to handle high demands on the system.
The Surge Plan is designed to address additional patient care needs should COVID-19 infections result in an overcapacity of the hospital system.
“We hope that this surge plan is not necessary, but we are preparing for the worst,” said Dr. Mark Escott, Interim Austin-Travis County Health Authority. “We must continue to stay home and practice physical distancing. The future of our healthcare system is up to our daily individual behavior, and it is going to take all of us to fight this virus.”
Under the Surge Plan, once traditional hospitals have run out of bed spaces, patients would be transferred to Type II Alternative Care Sites and receive a range of hospital-level care in buildings that were previously purposed for patient care such as former clinics or medical facilities. If Type II ACS exceeds capacity, patients would be taken to Type I ACS facilities, which are similar to combat surgical hospitals or large wards. Officials are in the process of identifying specific sites for both types of ACS facilities in Austin-Travis County that will meet the community’s needs.
The current hospital bed count for Austin-Travis County is approximately 4,300 on an average day. However, this number will continuously change depending on additional capacity coming online. As of this release, hospitals are currently operating at about 50 percent capacity.
Isolation Facilities and Protective Lodging Facilities (ProLodges) have also been established. Isolation Facilities are locations that are being used to house patients who do not need medical care but do not have anywhere to safely be isolated from the public (e.g. are unable to adequately isolate from a family member’s home). ProLodges are protective lodging for vulnerable communities.
To ensure those on the frontlines of the COVID-19 outbreak are properly informed, Austin Public Health (APH) has been providing regular updates to more than 4,000 physicians through the Travis County Medical Society (TCMS). There are also daily conference calls with the hospital networks, where providers detail current cases, system status and review current measures being planned and taken. Additionally, doctors have access to a dedicated phone line to reach APH directly.
A dedicated section for health care providers on the www.AustinTexas.gov/COVID19 website has been updated to include surge plans for the area, information about the Austin-Travis County Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and the different task forces to support medical and social service community needs.
Health care providers can also access guidance on COVID-19 testing and personal protective equipment. APH, the City of Austin and Travis County -- as a whole -- are prepared to maintain emergency operations for many months to ensure our community remains safe and educated during this unprecedented time.