Edward Hospital deals with record COVID-19 case surge


Courtesy of Keith Hartenberger

Jennifer Piloni, a nurse in Edward Hospital’s Critical Care Unit, cares for a COVID-19 patient. The hospital has opened new facilities to accommodate for the surge.

Jeremy Zhao, Community Editor & Copy Editor

Naperville’s Edward Hospital is in the midst of its worst COVID-19 surge since the pandemic started. The hospital has since implemented visitor restrictions, new procedures for admitting patients and opened up additional accommodations. 

The hospital reported its highest single-day number of confirmed COVID-19 patients being treated on Jan. 11, at 122 patients. Over half of the 122 were unvaccinated. Edward Hospital saw a doubling in the number of confirmed COVID-19 patients being treated daily from December to January. 

“We were in single digits as far as the number of patients with COVID in Edward Hospital and Elmhurst Hospital [in summer 2021],” said Keith Hartenberger, System Director of Public Relations at Edward-Elmhurst Health. “Viruses come back with a vengeance. So now, our numbers are by far higher than they ever were.” 

Due to limited capacity, COVID-19 patients must meet a certain threshold with their symptoms to be admitted. 

“They will be short of breath, their blood oxygen level will be lower than what is normal,” Hartenberger said. 

The hospital is not only becoming more selective with COVID-19 patients, but also with regular patients as well. Patients coming in for non-COVID related procedures will receive a rapid or PCR test. 

“We’ve cancelled elective surgeries for the time being, which frees up staff and [availability of inpatient beds],” Hartenberger said. 

Elective surgeries are non-life-threatening surgeries in which a slight delay wouldn’t have a large adverse effect. 

Another measure put in place at Edward Hospital is visitor restrictions. This change, however, caused a lot of frustration among the families of patients.

“We were one of the first hospitals in the state of Illinois that actually allowed visitors for COVID patients,” said Deana Ruby, nurse manager on the Pulmonary Medicine Unit at Edward Hospital, the main unit for COVID-19. “But, when Omicron was starting to surge at the end of December, Edward decided to stop visitors. That caused some frustration when they were like one of the reasons we wanted to come to Edward is because we knew we could have visitors.”  

Ruby said some visitor exceptions include the mother of a baby, husband of a pregnant wife, and caregivers for patients with dementia, blindness, Down syndrome, and more. 

The hospital is also experiencing a lack of staff and space. 

“Some of our employees have tested positive for COVID themselves,” Hartenberger said. “We are also at capacity.”

“At capacity” doesn’t stop more patients from being admitted, however, Hartenberger said. While the hospital only has 46 ICU beds, they have the option to open other units which have additional beds. All in all, Edward Hospital has the ability to “expand ICU capacity by 36 beds, if needed,” Hartenberger said. The hospital is confident they can “adapt to whatever number of inpatients are at Edward Hospital on a given day.”

The fact that unvaccinated people are disproportionately hospitalized is not lost on the Edward staff. 

“It’s frustrating for our doctors, nurses and staff to have to treat folks who are essentially unnecessarily in the hospital,” Hartenberger said. “If people would get vaccinated, they’d be helping themselves.”