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Turning the Corner With COVID-19 Crisis

Elective

Surgeries

Resuming at

Meadows

[email protected]

Toombs County and the surrounding area may have turned the corner with the COVID- 19 crisis. The numbers are going down.

“It looks like we might be on the other side of this. We are very excited,” said Dr. Karen McColl, Vice President of Medical Affairs and Chief Medical Officer at Memorial Health Meadows Hospital Monday morning. McColl said that on Monday, the total number of COVID positive patients in house at Meadows was 27, with seven persons on ventilators. Last week, Meadows was treating 34 COVID patients with 16 of the most critically ill COVID patients on ventilators.

In the past several weeks, the local numbers were even higher, and this area was in the critical “red zone” on the Georgia Department of Health’s COVID update dashboard. Meadows was above capacity, with no beds available. Additional personnel had to be brought in to help manage the patient load. continued from page

While there is no question the numbers here are declining but, “The big question is whether we are going to get to the low plateau were reached in May and early June,” before the second COVID wave struck, McColl said. “We need another month to see,” she added. The area positive test rate has declined to about 10-12% now, but there is still a large part of the population that has not been vaccinated, Mccoll noted. “We have 50-60% of folks who never received the vaccine, and we are still focused on them.” She urged residents who have not been vaccinated to get the vaccine now. The hospital’s clinic and other local sites are still administering the vaccine. Regarding COVID booster vaccinations, Mc-Coll said only those who received the Pfizer vaccinations are eligible for boosters and must meet specific criteria to receive the vaccine. She said the hospital is administering these boosters with referrals from primary health care physicians. Persons who received Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines are not yet eligible since additional data on administering these vaccines as boosters is still being collected.

Meanwhile, the drivethrough COVID testing site set up on the Meadows campus is still operational, although the number of clients has declined from about 40 to 50 per day to around 20 per day. Also, the medical facility has been able to secure a sufficient quantity of monoclonal antibody infusions, although, with a decline in the number of COVID cases locally, future supplies, which are based on need, may be more limited, Mc- Coll said.

Elective Surgery Returns

With the COVID numbers declining, Meadows is returning to a more normal operational status. Elective surgery is being reinstated this week, Mc- Coll said. “While hospitals continue to provide care for COVID-19 patients, we cannot forget that patients in our community still need routine or emergency medical care. It might be an ER visit for a broken bone, a mammogram, a colonoscopy, cancer care or even a surgical procedure. These are still critically important to maintain the health and well-being of our neighbors. We want everyone to know that it is safe to receive care in a hospital and you should not delay care.”

McColl noted there have been many national news stories that highlight the fact that patients are avoiding hospitals during the pandemic. A recent national poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that nearly half (48%) of Americans state that they or a family member skipped or delayed medical care due to COVID-19. “We are now beginning to see the effects and in some cases, this decision has caused delays in treatment and unnecessary harm to the patient,” McColl said.

“While our hospital has always been a safe place to have surgery, we understand that patients have concerns about COVID- 19. We’re taking unprecedented measures to ensure that our patients can receive safe, high-quality care, even during a pandemic,” McColl added.

At Meadows, positive COVID-19 patients and suspected COVID-19 patients are cared for in dedicated areas of the hospital by staff using maximum precautions to prevent spread of the virus.

The hospital’s COVID- 19 safety plan starts before patients even enter the door. Prior to surgery, a staff member pre-screens the patient via telephone for any symptoms of COVID- 19. All surgery patients and visitors as well as employees and physicians are screened before they enter the hospital. “We’ve implemented a universal masking policy, which means everyone is given a mask before they enter the hospital and are required to wear it. Patients having higher-risk procedures will have a rapid COVID-19 test prior to surgery,” Mc-Coll explained.

Patients having surgery or an outpatient procedure may have one guest 18 years of age or older. Waiting rooms and other public areas have been reconfigured to allow for social distancing.

Operating rooms are routinely kept very clean to ensure a sterile environment. Hospitals follow strict infection prevention guidelines and operating rooms and surgical instruments are thoroughly decontaminated after every procedure.

“Maybe you’re thinking you should just wait a couple of months to have your procedure. Honestly, we believe the protective measures we have in place will be with us for some time. Please don’t delay. Hospitals are working very hard to ensure that you receive safe care, now and always. We appreciate your trust,” McColl said.

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