Hospital officials have been preparing for surge in patients from COVID-19

Birdena Seal, ultraviolet operator, prepares to sanitize a room with one of Hamilton Medical Center's Xenex germ-zapping robots.

DALTON, Ga. — They don’t know when it will come or how large it will be, but Hamilton Medical Center and AdventHealth Murray officials have been preparing for a possible surge in patients with the new coronavirus (COVID-19).

“We have a surge plan in place and have been training staff and preparing to bring in additional staff members as needed. In planning for the long run, we have been putting together a physician pool in the event that additional doctors are needed on-site,” said Perri Correll, infection prevention director at Hamilton.

Garrett Nudd, director of marketing for AdventHealth Murray and AdventHealth Gordon, said both hospitals have been preparing for COVID-19.

“Over the past several weeks, AdventHealth Murray and AdventHealth Gordon have been aggressively preparing for a potential surge related to COVID-19,” Nudd said. “We are following CDC (federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and (Georgia) Department of Public Health guidelines as we have visitor restrictions in the hospitals and outpatient clinics. Everyone who enters our facilities is screened prior to entering. And we are adhering to the ‘social distancing’ guidelines by limiting our meetings and encouraging remote work for many of our employees who provide support functions.”

To conserve resources and better prepare for the possible surge, Hamilton and AdventHealth Murray have temporarily halted some surgeries.

“Urgent and emergent surgeries will continue, but elective procedures are being suspended at the hospital. We will continue monitoring and evaluating the situation and keep this suspension in place as long as necessary to help keep people safe,” said Cathy Ferguson, chief nursing officer for Hamilton.

Nudd said AdventHealth Murray is “closely monitoring our supply levels of personal protective equipment and acquiring additional supplies when possible.”

Hamilton has been bolstering its equipment, especially the respiratory machines needed to help the sickest COVID-19 patients breathe.

“We currently have 22 ventilators and 10 more on the way,” said Jeff Hughes, cardiovascular service line administrator for Hamilton. “Hamilton is very prepared to take care of patients with respiratory issues. In addition to our intensive care units, we have an intensivist program, led by Dr. Elwyn Clark, who is a fellowship-trained intensivist. Intensivists are specially trained for the advanced care needed for critically ill patients. In addition, we have Dr. Lee Connor, who is an infectious disease specialist, on our staff.”

Officials with both hospitals say they are working hard at keeping staff from getting infected while treating COVID-19 patients.

“We’re constantly working on keeping our staff from getting infected in addition to our patients,” said Correll of Hamilton. “We’re following CDC guidelines, from hand washing to personal protective equipment. We have been doing additional training of staff, continuous prompts for hand hygiene, and have been doing additional cleaning of restrooms and other areas that are heavily used, utilizing our germ-zapping Xenex robots for sanitization. We’ve set up tents outside of our Emergency Department to do initial screening of potential COVID-19 patients, so they don’t go in the main doors of the department. All associates are screened before each shift. If they show signs of infection, they are scheduled to visit a special associate health clinic that we set up for further testing. We have an internal task force that meets every day to collaborate and make sure we’re doing all we can to keep everyone safe.”

In addition to Hamilton Medical Center, Hamilton Health Care System operates Regency Park, Ridgewood Manor, Quinton Memorial and Wood Dale Health and Rehabilitation, which provide senior living, rehabilitation and skilled nursing.

“Hamilton’s senior living communities have been steadily planning and providing additional associate education as well as increasing communication to our associates, residents and families,” said Tyler Kendall, vice president, Post-Acute Care Services. “The safety and well-being of our residents and staff is the top priority. We have restricted all visitation, including non-essential health care personnel, except for certain compassionate care situations. We have canceled all group activities and communal dining for the safety of our residents. Our communities have active screening of residents and associates for fever and respiratory symptoms. We are connecting our residents to their families through a variety of video conferencing platforms and telephone calls. Some of our residents prefer cards and letters and would welcome anyone sending them to our locations.”

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