Northeast Georgia Health System leaders are fighting to get ahead of the spread of COVID-19.

Mobile units — which will allow the hospital system to treat additional patients and adapt to changing needs — are operational at both Northeast Georgia Medical Center Braselton and Gainesville.

The two units, which were provided by the Georgia Department of Public Health, both have 13 spaces for patients. (That’s in addition to the 84 emergency beds and 15 hall spaces at NGMC Gainesville, and 21 beds and 10-12 hallway spaces at NGMC Braselton.)

Dr. Mohak Dave’, chief of emergency medicine, said the units will allow the hospital to adapt to whatever circumstances come up in the future.

“In emergency medicine, our job is to be prepared. We can’t predict the future, but we have to be prepared,” he said in a press conference held last week.

The negative-pressure units will allow the hospital to cohort patients with respiratory-type symptoms, to avoid exposure to patients, staff and the community. Higher-acuity patients will still continue to be triaged and receive the level of care needed, Dave’ said.

The additional mobile units will allow the hospital additional capacity, he added.

“As we have seen in a pandemic situation, you need capacity,” said Dr. Dave'. “You have to be able to adapt to what the capacity needs are at the time.”

Dr. Shravan Kethireddy, medical director of critical care services, noted the health system has been proactive and aggressive in its fight against the spread of COVID-19. He cited the situation in Italy, which has seen exponential growth in its number of cases and an overwhelmed healthcare system.

“Their exponential growth was unprecedented,” said Dr. Kethireddy. “And even though (Italy was) prepared, it quickly overwhelmed the healthcare system …. It is with that concern that we’ve acted with the level of urgency and need that you see here.”

STAY HOME

Area healthcare workers are taking on a variety of non-traditional roles as the normal rhythm is disrupted at NGHS.

“I’ve found that the medical staff has been willing to step up and participate in this response in ways that many of us haven’t necessarily done before,” said chief of staff Dr. Cliff Hastings.

Additionally, Dr. Dave’ recognized first responders and urgent care staff members who are also part of the effort.

“They’re fighting this fight with us as well,” said Dr. Dave'.

But the fight against the spread of COVID-19 isn’t just the responsibility of the area healthcare system and first responders. It’s also the responsibility of the community.

During the press conference, several NGHS staff members cited the critical need for community members to adhere to the CDC guidelines on social distancing, quarantining and hand-washing.

Sean Couch, director of public relations and marketing, urged those with symptoms to isolate and monitor those symptoms at home. Couch noted that recommendation is different than what is most often recommended for people who are sick.

“But this is a different situation,” said Couch.

If someone feels they need medical attention, they’re asked to call a doctor or urgent care first to get advice on how to proceed.

“This is our window of time. We have an opportunity here to collectively come together as a community, as a state, as a nation to really follow these directions for care and social isolation,” said Couch. “And if we can achieve that together, we can help prevent the spread and hopefully prevent us moving to a case where our health systems are overwhelmed. If we move to that point, unfortunately, our caregivers are going to be faced with making some very difficult decisions about who receives care. None of us want to get to that point.”

For up-to-date information from NGHS on its COVID-19 response, visit nghs.com/covid-19.

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