NWA hospitals prep for coronavirus possibility


"I think you should be more concerned about the flu," Al Velotta said.

SPRINGDALE, Ark. (KFTA) — The coronavirus continues to spread across the country and now local hospitals are making a plan to tackle the illness if patients report having symptoms.

You’re looking for flu symptoms in the middle of flu season and so trying to differentiate between influenza and coronavirus is going to be very hard.

James “Buddy” Newton, MD, FIDSA

As the coronavirus makes its way into the United States, Northwest Arkansas hospitals, like Washington Regional Medical Center (WRMC) and Northwest Medical Center, are on high alert.

“With influenza, we have medication that we can use,” WRMC Infectious Disease Specialist & Director of Antimicrobial Stewardship Program Doctor James “Buddy” Newton said. “We don’t have that with the coronavirus.”

Doctor Newton said WRMC started putting together a plan last week. It includes isolation and an outline of how to detect the coronavirus.

“We prepare for these things all the time,” Doctor Newton said. “When we had the Ebola scare we put policies and plans in place and came up with protocols on how we would take care of things.”

We have done the same thing for this.

James “Buddy” Newton, MD, FIDSA

WRMC isn’t the only hospital prepared for the coronavirus. Northwest Medical Center (Springdale) has signs posted all over the hospital (pictured above) in Marshallese and Spanish.

This is essentially the same type of protocol we would use in a severe flu case or any upper respiratory infection or symptoms that we cannot diagnose immediately.


Northwest Medical Center Chief Nursing Officer Al Velotta said the hospital’s plan includes automatic isolation if they even remotely suspect the virus.

“We would automatically and immediately mask you and take you into a private room where we would start that testing,” Velotta said.

The hospitals said although statistically, Northwest Arkansas will probably never see the virus — they are preparing as a safety measure so they can be ready for it if they do.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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