LA Surge Hospital, Part. 1: Responding to a Crisis
By Gil Vidals, , HIPAA Blog

Note: We’re taking a few weeks away from our series on HIPAA Plugins for WordPress to mention the important contributions of our own Terri Vidals and the Los Angeles Surge Center, a new Covid-19 – only hospital fighting to stem the tide of the novel coronavirus.

As the spread of the Covid-19 virus rapidly evolved into a global pandemic, Los Angeles city hospitals began bracing for “surge capacities” of patients, beyond their normal ability to provide care. 

The news from large, metropolitan centers like New York was grim; the so-called “city that never sleeps” had seen a steep rise in the number of positive cases, and many were dying. Urban hospitals were quickly finding themselves overwhelmed. 

Numerous federal and state-level actions – from emergency funding to the US Navy hospital ship Comfort sailing into New York harbor to relieve the burden on in city hospitals – had been undertaken. Even as the USNS Mercy ship arrived in Los Angeles, area hospitals were actively preparing for a similar crisis.

What Site for the Surge?

Multiple LA sites – from major sports arenas and convention centers to movie sound stages – were discussed as possible locations to handle the surge. Certainly, any of these facilities could be “made to work” if needed; a more suitable location, however, would be one with an existing hospital infrastructure already in place. 

Such a place was found in the former St. Vincent’s Medical Center facility, at 2131 W. 3rd St. A pandemic task force comprised of the state of California, LA County, Kaiser Permanente, and Dignity Health, quickly devised a plan to lease the recently bankrupt, 266-bed facility as a “Covid19-only” center.

The site would be ideal – once it was equipped and staffed to receive transfer patients from other area hospitals. The announcement went public on April 6, 2020.

Responding to a Crisis

So when Terri Vidals got the call to join a fellow pharmacy director to rapidly assemble and train new pharmacy staff, in time for a projected LA Surge Hospital (LASH) opening of April 13th, she knew they’d have to work fast. 

With 30 years experience in Pharmacy operations and ensuring medication safety in the hospital setting, founding Rxpert Solutions LLC , and as a director of HIPAA Vault, a compliant cloud solutions company, Terri put all her expertise to work. 

For starters, the team knew that a mandatory skillset would include sterile compounding, as well as experience with Pyxis (an automated medication dispensing system), and Epic software. But as Terri points out, they were  also guided by a fundamental conviction: ‘Your plan is not as important as your culture.’ 

This insightful quote from Todd Howard continues, ‘That means, you will run into problems that will disrupt your plan and schedule, and how you deal with that depends on the culture you have created within your team.’ 

Nurturing a strong culture that could weather the storms of critical care, with all the unexpected turns that come with a novel virus, was key, and at the heart of Terri’s approach. As a result, her team has responded well to the emphasis on a positive culture and has embraced flexibility – even amidst the many, serious challenges.  

Stay tuned as we cover the next stage of the journey with the LA Surge hospital! 

Terri Vidals is a hospital pharmacist with over 30 years experience. She founded Rxpert Solutions, a consulting company offering practical and lasting solutions on behalf of medication safety. With her husband Gil Vidals, Terri also helped to found HIPAA Vault, a leading provider of HIPAA compliant solutions enabling healthcare providers, business organizations, and government agencies to secure their protected health information from data breaches, threats, and security vulnerabilities.