Piedmont Henry Hospital admitted its first COVID-19 positive patient in the middle of March. In just over two months, the hospital, like nearly every other organization in the world, has made some significant changes in order to operate safely during this pandemic. The team at Piedmont Henry has done an incredible job and shown a tremendous amount of compassion and courage during a very difficult and challenging time. As we, and the rest of the world, begin to define how to move forward, the doctors, nurses, and staff members at the hospital continue to focus on providing high quality, and safe, patient-centered care for the community.
In the days leading up to admitting our first COVID-19 positive patient, we began preparing for an anticipated surge of patients. Leaders from throughout the hospital coordinated with counterparts from around the Piedmont system to ensure that our staff had the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) and ventilators for critical care patients. We expanded our intensive care unit (ICU) and converted one of our medical/surgical floors to another extension of our ICU, so that we could continue to isolate patients who had tested positive for COVID-19 and care for them safely. We were in constant communication with system leaders, infectious disease physicians, and the Georgia Department of Public Health to ensure that we were following the best practices, processes, and procedures, and adhering to the CDC guidelines.
Some of these best practices led us to prohibit all visitation and cancel all elective surgeries. This allowed us to conserve our PPE and deploy staff to other departments in need. Some employees served in the ICU or on medical/surgical units, while others served as screeners at the hospital entrances or supported our dietary department or environmental services.
As we have seen the number of COVID-19 cases at Piedmont Henry decline, we started the process of allowing essential and time-sensitive surgical procedures and diagnostic testing. We have created new processes to ensure that everyone remains safe. For instance, patients scheduled for surgical and invasive procedures are tested for COVID-19 in the days leading up to their procedure, and all patients coming in for an outpatient test or appointment, have their temperature taken and are screened at the door. We also require everyone in the hospital to wear a mask or face covering and practice physical distancing.
Safety is and has always been the top priority at Piedmont Henry. While we understand that there is a lot of uncertainty about the safety of any institution right now, it is important that everyone in our community knows that the hospital is a safe place to be, especially if you are ill or injured. Every hospital in the nation has seen a sharp decline in the number of patients coming to the Emergency Department with chest pain, heart attack symptoms, stroke symptoms, and other critical illnesses because of fear of COVID-19. This is alarming because these are medical emergencies and need immediate treatment. Left untreated, these issues can lead to permanent disability or even death.
In addition to the safety measures mentioned earlier, we have also put in measures to screen for COVID-19 in the emergency department. Patients that come to the department with symptoms associated with COVID-19 are immediately escorted to isolation rooms in the department, away from other patients. The staff uses the recommended CDC precautions to ensure potential COVID-19 patients do not come into contact with other patients.
Piedmont Henry received an incredible outpouring of support from our community throughout this crisis. Individuals, organizations, local leaders and area businesses continue to find ways to show their appreciation for the efforts of our incredible team of healthcare heroes. There are meals and snacks donated on a regular basis and groups continue to donate homemade masks for our staff members and patients arriving without masks of their own. This has been a challenging and difficult time for all of us, but watching the world come together to care for each other and support healthcare employees on the frontlines has been tremendous.
Everyone at Piedmont Henry appreciates the trust you have placed in us during this extraordinary time. Thank you for your support and joining us as we move forward and continue to make a positive difference in every life we touch.
William Watkins, MD
Chief Medical Officer
Piedmont Henry Hospital