COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — This fourth surge of COVID has hit Columbus hospitals hard. But as one hospital official tells News 3, it’s not just COVID patients who are stretching the system thin.
Piedmont Columbus Regional Director of Emergency Services Jack Rodgers says that Piedmont’s two Columbus ERs – Midtown and Northside – are stretched thin through a dangerous combination of COVID and other emergencies.
There are 159 COVID patients in the two Columbus Hospital systems – Piedmont Columbus Regional and St. Francis-Emory Healthcare.
Though the hospitals don’t release COVID numbers, the bulk of the COVID cases are at Piedmont.
Combine that with the fact that Piedmont is the region’s primary trauma center, and it has created a lot of work in the Emergency Department.
“Just because COVID is still here doesn’t mean the rest of the stuff we typically see has gone away,” Rodgers said. “What is different this time around versus when COVID first started is when COVID first came out, everybody was afraid of it. So, nobody came to the hospital. Our volumes went down generally. So, the COVID population was what we focused on.”
Not this time.
“Over time, COVID, sociality speaking, has become just that thing that we deal with now,” Rodgers said. “We see that in the emergency department. We see COVID patients continuing to come in. But we also see the car wrecks, the shootings/stabbings, the chronic medical conditions that come in and require care. And it has really pushed our volumes up.”
The Georgia Department of Public Health’s dashboard lists Piedmont’s ER status as Severe. That means diversions and functionally no ICU beds available.
And high stress.
“It is very stressful,” Rodgers said. “It’s very taxing on your resources when you have that typical volume whether it’s interpersonal violence, the chronic conditions we talked about earlier. And then throw COVID on top of that and the workload just increases. And it makes for a very stressful environment for all of the staff in the department.”
The hospitalization numbers are down a little from last week when the high was 169 on Aug. 18, but the experts say it’s too early to say that this surge has peaked.
Since March of 2020, Rodgers and the Piedmont Emergency Department have been dealing with this pandemic.
It’s come in three surges. One in late March-April of 2020. Then the summer of 2020. This January the third surge hit Georgia.
On August 1st, there were 81 people hospitalized in Columbus’ two hospital systems. Today, there are 159.
“The first three surges, we had what happened in the Atlanta market and the other Piedmont hospitals to kind of gauge what we can expect,” Rodgers said. “And we were fortunate enough to be able to respond accordingly and meet needs. This time around, the tables have been flipped. We were the first ones to start to surge in the Columbus area before the rest of the Atlanta market hospitals did. So, we led the way and they have been watching what’s been happening with us.”