Southeast Health sees increase in non-critical COVID-19 patients

Chief Medical Officer explains more
Published: Jul. 15, 2020 at 8:05 PM CDT
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DOTHAN, Ala. (WTVY) - Every Wiregrass County but Geneva County is considered very high risk right now by the Alabama Department of Public Health. Geneva County is facing a high-risk situation. With new cases of COVID-19 reported everyday, hospitals are having to adapt.

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Charles Harkness said they are not strapped with COVID-19 patients yet, but the volume is going up and that is their biggest concern. He said the virus can be slowed down if people wore a mask.

“We think if more people would follow that, we could, we can’t stop the spread of the disease but we can certainly slow it down and keep it to where the hospitals don’t get into trouble taking care of covid patients,” Dr. Harkness said.

He said a mask mandate is never too late.

“I would have liked to have seen it earlier, it’s been disappointing to put information in front of people about what they can do and not have them do it,” Dr. Harkness said. “To require having to put an ordinance in place to get the people to do what they should be doing just based on protecting each other from this disease, but I don’t think it’s too late. I think it’s better late than never really.”

Dr. Harkness shares the hospitals biggest concern.

“I think our biggest concern is the spread of the disease and I think to actually, the one thing we know we can do to stop it is tied to is wearing masks and social distancing,” Dr. Harkness said.

Hospitals around the state are becoming strapped with COVID-19 patients. Fortunately, that is not the case here at Southeast Health, Dr. Harkness shares their plan.

“We have a complete floor that’s for covid patients,” Dr. Harkness said. “We are ready to actually expand beyond that if we have too.”

The hospital is seeing an increase in covid patients filling non-critical care beds.

“People who come in with their oxygen levels a little bit low, low enough that we can’t send them back home, not having an alternative for them getting oxygen at home we keep them in the hospital,” Dr. Harkness said. “Fortunately they have fairly short lengths of stay when that happens and we’re able to turn them around, but the numbers are going up, and so the percentage of them who will need critical care will go up as the numbers go up.”

The number of covid patients in ICU vary day to day. About 8 to 10 ICU beds out of 32 are taken by covid patients.

“Our biggest issue is really in critical care, because between the covid patients that require critical care and other patients that require critical care we bump right up against the number of critical care beds we have on a daily bases, and when that happens things start to back up in the emergency room and the emergency room then gets busy,” Dr. Harkness said. “So we are actually starting to talk outside the hospital now to officials about what kind of alternatives do we have for a safety belt if that happens. We’re not there yet, but the volume is going up and that’s what our concern is.”

Dr. Harkness encourages everyone to wear a mask and social distance to protect others from the virus.

Health officials encourage you to get tested if you have any of the COVID-19 symptoms.

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