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Big Bend, South Georgia area hospitals say they're able to make room for everyone

Posted at 6:42 PM, Jul 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-20 18:42:19-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — From Florida to Georgia, hospitals continue to care for COVID-19 patients, including making sure there are enough beds to handle positive patients while also looking out for others in the hospital.

Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare and South Georgia Medical Center are able to expand coronavirus wings and have identified overflow hospitals if the need arises.

Both say for now they're able to make room for everyone.

"We put together this tiered plan," said Dr. Brian Dawson, the chief medical officer at South Georgia Medical Center. "As certain units fill up, other units are subsequently opened."

"There is a point where expansion is not possible but what we're seeing now is that if the community needs it, we can expand," said Dr. Andrea Friall, the vice president and chief medical officer at Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare.

There are 46 people being treated for the coronavirus at TMH and in Valdosta, SGMC is treating 67 patients.

If the numbers grow, there's the potential of moving off-site, something SGMC has already started.

"As we begin to shift forward, we've made room by moving our non-COVID patients to our Smith Northview Campus here in town," Dawson said.

As doctors work to separate COVID-19 patients from others, they're noticing a different reason the emergency rooms are full.

"People delaying their care and the thought of going to get care causes more severity to their disease, and then they end up in the emergency room versus having seen a primary care provider," said Friall.

Hospitals have tightened up policies, requiring masks, cutting down and eliminating visitation, and, of course, separating coronavirus patients.

South Georgia Medical Center is even testing away from others.

"If somebody does want to have routine screening but not significant symptoms, if they feel like they're okay to take care of themselves at home, we have a drive-thru screening that they can come into and be very rapidly evaluated," Dawson said.

Dr. Dawson says he reminds people of the three W's: Watch your distance, wear your mask and wash your hands.