Over the past few weeks, we have seen the number of Bulloch County resident’s testing positive for COVID-19 and EGRMC hospital admissions grow exponentially. Most everyone in our community knows someone, at this point, who has tested positive for COVID-19.
We have also seen many who have had very little impact personally from the virus and others who have become critically ill.
Throughout the region and state, we are seeing hospitals begin to reach capacity with the influx of very sick COVID-19 patients on top of their normal patient census. Because of this surge in cases, many hospitals in our area are required to divert patients to other facilities several states away.
According to the Georgia Emergency Management agency, today 88% of all critical care beds in Georgia are full.
East Georgia Regional Medical Center in Statesboro is seeing their highest number of COVID-19 patients since this began here back in March. This influx of sick patients puts a strain on our healthcare system locally and statewide.
The reason Governor Kemp shut down our state was not to eradicate the virus, but to slow it down enough so hospitals could prepare for surges.
Now, months later, after reopening our state and as students are preparing to go back to school Bulloch County healthcare workers are feeling the impact of increasing COVID-19 patients.
Because there is so much confusion and division over this virus, I met with Stephen Pennington, CEO of EGRMC to get a firsthand look at what is really going on inside our hospital.
What he shared and I witnessed is nothing short of incredible. Doctors, nurses and hospital staff members are working hard to take care of our community in very difficult times.
They are tired and many struggle to understand why so many in our community are not taking this virus seriously. While they are putting their lives on the line every day to help get us through this.
Watch the full interview with Stephen Pennington here:
Summaries of the interview:
Explain how EGRMC has prepared to continue the battle against COVID-19
Every year, we prepare for busy flu seasons and hurricanes but COVID-19 is much different because of the large number of unknowns. We are still trying to predict the future, which is difficult and challenging. That, combined with the amount of time this has been going. We began changing our protocols at EGRMC in March to prepare for COVID-19. This has been an endurance test for our employees. Keeping our team encouraged and motivated is our biggest challenge. We would like to move on but it seems this virus will be here a while.
Before, we were concerned about PPE and supply shortages. We have made some changes in our supply chain. That has helped along with being able to predict our needs more now. However, what we are seeing are COVID-19 patients who are much sicker and ones that get very sick quickly. This is a very serious virus.
We are working to balance taking care of COVID positive patients and non-COVID-19 patients. We have precautions and protocols in place to take care of both safely. We understand that people are still getting sick from other diseases. It is important for citizens to understand that we are here for them. If you are sick, please do not stay away from the hospital or your physician’s office.
What is your advice on wearing a facemask?
We follow DPH and CDC protocols at the hospital. I would like to see mask on everyone in the community. We try to mitigate as much risk as possible and a mask is one of the simplest things we can do to protect others and ourselves from getting COVID-19
What has changed? Why is COVID-19 more serious now?
The main difference is since July 4th we have seen more cases. We have been taking care of COVID-19 patients since March. The last two to three weeks we are seeing a large number of patients needing to be admitted into the hospital. That is why we it is so important for us to slow the spread.
Are you Managing Critical Care Bed Capacity at EGRMC?
Due to the influx of very sick COVID-19 patients, alone with other critical patients, we are experiencing high occupancy in our region and ICU capacity is at a premium across the state.
We are making course corrections every day. That stresses everyone out. Healthcare is very protocol driven. So having to make modifications and changes throughout the day creates additional stress.
One example of how we are working to increase critical care bed capacity at EGRMC is by converting another unit for COVID-19 patients. This will allow us to move some of the non-critical patients out of the ICU.
Until this increase in capacity, we designated half of our 24 ICU beds and a step down unit exclusively for COVID-19 patients.
The unknown of what may be coming is difficult. I am very proud of our team. They are doing a great job. They inspire me!
We want everyone to know that we are here for you. If you are sick, come to the hospital.
However, this is serious; everybody needs take this very seriously and take extra cautions not just today but for the near future. We cannot stay home all day. I understand that. If you do have to get out do it cautiously.
How can the community help?
We appreciate everything the community has done for our team. The nice cards, thank you notes, meals and even the people who used sidewalk chalk on our grounds thanking our employees’ makes a difference. Any way you can find to make sure you thank them for what they are doing is very encouraging. They are working very hard to be here for our community when they need us the most. These nice gestures brings a big smile to their faces and we are very appreciative for the support.
I understand this is what we are here for and this is our job, but it has gone on for so long and we see it continuing into the future. These expressions of kindness help our employees stay motivated as we all work through this virus.
I wish people would take this more seriously
When people in the community have a close friend, family member or co-worker that tests positive for COVID-19, who they were in close proximity without a mask, it becomes very serious to them.
It should not take that. That is why we encourage everyone to wear a mask to mitigate the spread and risk and not waiting until you have been exposed to a positive to take it seriously.
Please do not let it take being exposed to someone with a virus, not wearing a mask, to take this seriously.