COVINGTON, Ga. — As the fight against COVID-19 wages on, Americans are ofttimes overwhelmed with fear, uncertainty and financial hardship due to the ongoing pandemic.
While the social distancing and shelter-in-place recommendations have been successful in flattening the curve and preventing the spread of the coronavirus, they’ve also had a negative impact on the mindset of many citizens. Health care professionals have noted a decrease in the willingness of their patients to seek medical attention for serious illnesses due to a fear that they might contract the coronavirus during their visit to a hospital.
In several noted cases, this apprehension has led patients suffering from advanced severe illness to be harmed or suffer a death that could’ve otherwise been prevented under normal circumstances.
Dr. Norris Little, the chief medical officer for Piedmont Newton Hospital, recently spoke about the effect the coronavirus has had on patients in the local community.
“The pandemic has really created a lot of fear and uncertainty for people,” Norris said. “Over the last few months, we’ve learned a great deal and have been able to provide good care for these patients that have come to the hospital. And in our own community, we’ve seen the numbers of the patients with COVID-19 stay relative low and flat.
“I think, though, that for many people, the consequences of the pandemic — both because of the illness and because of the isolation — has created a lot of fear and anxiety that has kind of carried forward. And there hasn’t been a lot of guidance about what to do.”
As a result, Norris noted, Piedmont Newton has observed a steep decline in the number of patients who are seeking emergency care. He and David Kent, the hospital’s chief operating officer, recently spoke with The Covington News in an effort to provide citizens with more clarity and ease their tensions about visiting the hospital during these uncertain times.
“We have put in multiple measures in place in the hospital to both provide care for the patients that have COVID, but also to provide care for all the other people that don’t have COVID but need medical attention,” Norris said.
Among the preventative measures is universal masking, which requires all staff, patients and support personnel to wear masks at all times. Additionally, COVID-19 patients are placed in a separate wing of the hospital that reduces the risk of spreading infection to other patients. Piedmont Newton also regularly sanitizes all commonly-touched surfaces.
Through a strict set of guidelines and operating procedures, the staff at Piedmont Newton believe they’ve created a safe environment for all citizens in spite of the virus.
“One of the things I tell people is I’m over 65, so I’m in a high-risk group, but I really have no fear or concern of exposure to COVID at the hospital. I’m out on the floors, making rounds, wearing a mask like everyone else,” Norris said. “I think we have effective measures in place that prevent the spread of the disease.”
Piedmont Newton is not currently and has never been loaded with COVID-19 patients to the point of inundation.
As of Thursday night, Kent confirmed that Piedmont Newton’s 100-bed hospital was housing just five patients who’d tested positive for the coronavirus. Of those five, only one was occupying a bed in the hospital’s intensive care unit.
“I think the public may have this perception that the hospital is full of COVID-19 patients. It is not,” Kent said. “The most COVID-19 patients we’ve ever had here at any point is 12, but that’s been more than six weeks ago. At no point ever were we at risk of being full of COVID patients. Quite the contrary.”