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Medical officer says Piedmont Newton seeing local ambulance patients when on diversion
Dr. Little at BOC meeting
Piedmont Newton Chief Medical Officer Dr. Norris Little talks in January 2021 about the Covington hospital's recent experience with COVID-19 with the Newton County Board of Commissioners at the Historic Courthouse in Covington. - photo by Tom Spigolon

COVINGTON, Ga. — Piedmont Newton Hospital’s chief medical officer says patients that local ambulance services bring to the hospital will receive care even if those from other counties are turned away.

Dr. Norris Little told members of the Newton County Board of Commissioners Tuesday, Jan. 19, that he wanted to clarify the term “patient diversion” because many believed it had a different meaning as Newton and other area hospitals deal with the heavy demand for their services amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Little said it meant that “out of county ambulances should not bring their patients to our facility."

“That doesn’t stop them necessarily but if they have another option and another choice at another facility...,” he said.

“All of our patients in our community that need care with our own ambulance service are certainly … brought to Piedmont Newton if appropriate,” Little said.

Little spoke as part of an update Chairman Marcello Banes asked him to give to the board.

The chief medical officer said the hospital system was rolling out available COVID-19 vaccine and giving doses to its front-line workers and eligible residents.

He said news reports may have highlighted some adverse effects from the drug but it was “quite rare and we’ve not seen them.”

Piedmont is making doses available to the eligible groups who are now patients of physicians in the hospital system’s clinics, he said.

However, doses are available at health departments and supermarket pharmacies such as Kroger and Publix, he said.

Little added that the hospital’s primary patient population in Newton County has generally done a better job of taking precautions not to spread the disease compared to some neighboring counties.

As a result, he said the hospital staff has been able to avoid contracting the disease. 

The prevalence of the disease in Newton County also has generally been lower than neighboring counties, he said.

Newton County recorded a two-week positivity rate of 20.9% on Wednesday, Jan. 20, down from 23.2% on Jan. 6, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health.

Little and Piedmont Newton Hospital CEO David Kent also gave a similar update to the Covington City Council on Tuesday via teleconference.