By Lynn R. Parks

In response to the coronavirus that is sweeping the globe, Nanticoke Memorial Hospital in Seaford is laying plans for how it would handle an influx of patients.

Those plans include preparing flexible spaces for patients, and changing procedures in the emergency department in case it gets a flood of people needing services, said hospital president Penny Short.

Nanticoke also has equipment in place should it need to set up screening in a building outside of the facility or even in a tent, Short added.

“Nanticoke continues to work on planning for changing needs as the situation evolves,” Short said. The hospital is working with the state’s Department of Public Health, as well as with emergency medical services, long-term care facilities and Peninsula Regional Medical Center, with which it recently merged, on “managing needs around additional beds and potential patient transfers into or out of the facility.”

Last week, the World Health Organization declared that the coronavirus is a pandemic, meaning that it will likely reach every nation on Earth. Gov. John Carney issued a state of emergency declaration
in Delaware last Thursday and President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency followed a day later.

Throughout the country, tests to detect the virus in people have been in short supply. Short said that Nanticoke does have tests available “for those who need it.” The hospital is following guidelines put out by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), as well as by the state Department of Public Health, in administering those tests.

“While we have testing supplies available now, it is important that we are not wasteful with these resources,” Short said. “Testing those who don’t meet the guidelines can quickly overwhelm systems.”

Nanticoke is also preparing should a drive-through testing site become necessary. “That may be something that is needed in the future,” Short said. For now, “it may be too early for drive-through testing to be impactful.”

Already, Nanticoke has tightened up its visitation policy. No one younger than 18 is permitted in to visit a patient, and each patient can have just one visitor at a time.

The hospital is screening visitors and forbidding entry to anyone who has symptoms of the flu, or who has recently traveled outside of the U.S.

Effective Tuesday, patients can no longer receive gifts. That includes flowers and balloons, and applies whether the gifts are delivered by a service or carried in by a visitor.

Short said that the best way for people to reduce the spread of the disease is for them to stay home and, when out, to practice “social distancing.” In the case of the coronavirus, that means standing at least six feet (two meters) away from other people.

Short also encourages people to wash their hands frequently. That includes before, during and after preparing food and before eating. Hand-washing “is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of germs,” the CDC says.

Slowing the advance of the disease is the responsibility of everyone, Short said. “Working together to not spread the virus is crucial for our community but also for our caregivers,” she added.

For your information: To read more about how the Peninsula Regional Health System, of which Nanticoke Memorial Hospital in Seaford is part, is preparing for the coronavirus, visit the website Also there are details about the best ways to avoid getting sick, and what to do when symptoms occur.