Piedmont Newnan 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 Newnan 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, safe and patient-centered care for the community.
In the weeks 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 and ventilators for critical care patients.
Additionally, our hospital has rooms that isolate infectious patients being treated for COVID-19, and Piedmont Newnan tripled the number of isolation rooms throughout the hospital at the start of this pandemic.
These rooms are not only housed on a hospital unit that’s dedicated to COVID-19 treatment where no other patients are cared for, but they also feature ventilation systems that don’t allow for the exchange of air with other areas of the hospital, making it safe for patients coming into our ER, staying in our hospital or visiting one of our outpatient facilities or providers’ offices. We also set up a mobile assessment unit outside the emergency department, 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 Newnan decline, we have resumed essential and time-sensitive surgical procedures and diagnostic testing, and 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.
It is important to us to continue to provide high-quality, patient-centered care and to assure our patients and the members of the community that their safety is, and always has been, our priority. We understand that there is a lot of uncertainty about the safety of any institution right now, but 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.
We want the community to know that we have the staff, facilities and protocols in place to care for patients and keep people safe. As we continue to resume services safely, we still need to limit patient visitation at this time as an extra precaution. Visitors are restricted with the exception of one essential family member per patient for labor and delivery, invasive surgeries and procedures, end of life care, and care of minors or those requiring assistance. Everyone visiting our facilities – even staff – are required to pass a health screening prior to entry. All of our providers are wearing the appropriate personal protective equipment to keep themselves and the patients they’re seeing safe.
Our physician offices are offering in-person or telehealth visits. For patients coming to see their doctors in person, we’ve changed our waiting room procedures. At clinics and other non-hospital facilities, patients are asked to wait in their vehicles until the exam room is sanitized and the provider is ready to see them. The provider’s office will inform the patient when they are ready and patients will be pre-screened for respiratory symptoms at the door before the patient enters.
Piedmont Newnan 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 health care heroes. There are meals and snacks donated on a regular basis, and groups continue to donate homemade masks for 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 health care employees on the frontlines has been tremendous.
Everyone at Piedmont Newnan appreciates the trust you have placed in us during this extraordinary time. Thank you for your support and for joining us as we move forward and continue to make a positive difference in every life we touch.
CEO, Piedmont Newnan Hospital