West Suburban Medical Center has achieved special accreditation from the American College of Emergency Physicians for its commitment to, and care of, elderly and geriatric patients. With people in that age group especially vulnerable to COVID-19 and Cook County’s case numbers on the rise, the accreditation comes at a critical time.

“It’s always been something that’s been on our radar to try to be more formal and robust in our approach to geriatric patients,” said Dr. David Anthony, West Sub’s emergency department medical director. 

“The timing just made sense, in the middle of this pandemic, to add another layer to our response.”

West Suburban is the first community hospital in Illinois to achieve Level Three Geriatric Emergency Department Accreditation. 

“It’s essentially a way to recognize emergency departments that have put particular resources and particular attention to caring for elderly patients in the geriatric patient population,” said Anthony. 

As part of its accreditation, physician and nursing leadership will receive yearly education to keep health-care staff up to date on evidence-based guidelines regarding geriatric care. West Sub has also implemented a new triage screening system to identify geriatric patients at risk of sundowning while in the emergency department. 

Anthony called the emergency department at West Suburban “mission-driven.” 

“We care very deeply about our patients and our community,” he said. “That includes all ages, all races and ethnicities, all different levels of socioeconomic privilege.”

While the hospital isn’t taking care of the geriatric patient population at the expense of any other patient group, Anthony said, COVID-19 presents a higher risk to geriatric patients.

“All the things that we know put patients at increased risk for serious morbidity and death from COVID are all things that the geriatric patient population shares,” said Anthony.

The Oak Park Department of Public Health has reported COVID-related deaths of 30 residents in Oak Park long-term care facilities. Five of those deaths were reported Nov. 20. One death was reported Nov. 30.

“COVID has really changed everything for us and it’s turned many emergency departments on their head,” said Anthony.

West Suburban is seeing roughly 110 patients in the emergency room daily with upward of 30 of those patients diagnosed with COVID-19 or experiencing symptoms of the virus, Anthony estimated. 

“It’s a significant chunk of our patients,” said Anthony.

As other hospitals around the country have become overwhelmed by COVID-19, West Suburban has not reached that point, according to Anthony.

“We’ve been OK with ventilators. We haven’t been one of the hospitals that’s ever been in a position to have to ration,” he said.

The number of available beds at West Suburban is a little bit tighter these days but that is a problem all Chicago-area hospitals are facing, according to Anthony.

“It’s a day-to-day struggle in terms of trying to move patients to various floors around the hospital to make space,” he said. “But we’re doing OK.”

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