Hamilton Medical Center, along with the full Hamilton Health Care System, is extremely grateful for the outpouring of support from our community, friends, family, neighbors, and industry as we work together to provide the best care for our community and work to slow the spread of COVID-19. As is happening around the country, our community is seeing an increase in the number of COVID-19 positive and presumed positive cases. While we are hopeful that the numbers in our area will remain as they are, we all know that simply is not the reality. That is why preparation is key, and why it is often difficult to answer questions about the specific numbers of cases – both recovering at home and those who have been admitted to the hospital. These numbers change, sometimes rapidly, and whatever numbers we see now, we know those will surely increase day-by-day and moment-by-moment. What does not change is that COVID-19 will continue to spread rapidly if we do not all practice social distancing guidelines. That includes the assumption that being out in public around others will continue to result in exposures.
Tests completed and results received are updated daily on our website: https://www.hamiltonhealth.com/test-result-data-tests-performed-at-hamilton-medical-center/. Please remember, these are only tests from Hamilton Medical Center. It does not include other entities in the area that may be testing. Please see the Common COVID-19 Questions sheet for more information: https://www.hamiltonhealth.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Covid-19-questions-answered-sheet-3-2020.pdf.
Other questions we have received relate to the number of ventilators on hand and whether we have enough Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Hamilton has been preparing for expected needs and we currently have 35 critical care ventilators. (Hamilton would like to take this opportunity to express our gratitude to Dalton State College for loaning three ventilators for Hamilton’s use while their students are away from campus.)
Hamilton is planning for the long term. That means that despite our best efforts (or any health system’s best efforts), if there is not a focused and determined effort by each and every person in the community to follow social distancing guidelines at all times, no amount of preparation could handle the modeled/projected peak that would result in a higher number of cases. We are extremely grateful to industry leaders and community leaders who have donated PPE or are looking at creative ways to manufacture this equipment and other supplies to get us through an influx of COVID-19 patients. PPE and supplies must continue to be used responsibly, following CDC guidelines, as well as established protocols by Emory and others with science to support means and material of use and limiting exposure. This is how we prepare for not just the cases today, but also what might come tomorrow, next week and next month, and maybe even longer. However, no amount of preparation can ready any health system for the significant spike in cases that would result without social distancing guidelines being followed. In short, yes, we have PPE now. We might not always have enough if we are not all following social distancing guidelines and proper PPE use established by CDC guidelines and other reputable sources.
Other consistent questions we are receiving are about the number of cases in the hospital. As mentioned previously, this number changes rapidly. Also, to provide a number of COVID-19 cases in the hospital would not provide an accurate picture to the public. There have been six confirmed positives from tests conducted at Hamilton. Not all of these have required the level of care to necessitate a hospital admission. Also, this does not account for the number of patients who have been tested and are considered presumed positive because results are not yet returned. Finally, it is also impossible to know how many people in our community who are self-quarantining and may have mild to moderate symptoms that did not require medical treatment or testing. In short, providing a number of cases hospitalized would give an extremely false hope that there might not be reason for the community to be concerned. That would be irresponsible. We expect an increase in cases over the next week to two weeks, and possibly longer. We also know that if people are out and about rather than staying home, that number will increase dramatically.
What we would like the community to know is how Hamilton is preparing for COVID-19 cases. Hamilton is cohorting patients from the time they enter the Emergency Department. We have devoted care areas and devoted care teams for suspected COVID-19 patients. If someone is determined to need to be admitted, and he or she is suspected of having COVID-19, admission is to a designated COVID-19 treatment area. Whether needing intensive care in our Medical Intensive Care Unit or needing hospital care on a regular floor, Hamilton has specific areas where these patients are treated.
Finally, Hamilton would like to remind our community about our no visitor policy. Of course, there are extraordinary circumstances, but we are grateful for the understanding expressed by families that we are doing all we can to protect them and keep them safe as we care for their loved ones. Additionally, we screen every associate and provider at the beginning of each shift, including checking temperature for fever. Any associate who has a fever greater than 100.4 is further screened and sent for testing as medically necessary, following quarantine guidelines as appropriate. Just as with our associates, if there is an extraordinary circumstance where a visitor must enter the hospital, we screen for fever and symptoms as well.
In sum, the Hamilton family is doing all we can to protect your family. Whether it is additional ventilators, designated treatment rooms, following appropriate PPE guidelines from the CDC, or simply caring for our staff and visitors by screening, we are here to serve you. Our service to our community also includes encouraging each and every person to do his/her part. Please follow social distancing guidelines and good hand hygiene. Please don’t overload the emergency room with non-emergency needs. Hamilton Convenient Care locations are available with extended hours, and some of our Hamilton Physician Group primary Care clinics are offering tele-health visits to established patients.
There simply cannot be enough said about the dedication and hard work of the frontline staff, facilities, infectious disease, and the entire Hamilton family for how they have pulled together to care for the community. It is our honor and privilege to serve you. You are our family.
Be safe. Be well. Thank you for all of your support, kind words and prayers. Social distance.