It has been just over two months since Piedmont Fayette Hospital admitted its first COVID-19 positive patient. To say that the novel coronavirus had an impact on our hospital would be an understatement. Over the past 11 weeks, Piedmont Fayette, just like the rest of the world, had to make unprecedented changes to how we operate. I am incredibly proud of the work our team has done in keeping our patients and our staff members safe in a very challenging time. 

From the moment we admitted our first patient, the doctors, nurses, and staff members of Piedmont Fayette united like never before to provide care and prepare for more COVID-19 positive patients. In addition to securing the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) and ventilators, with the help of the Piedmont system we relocated our intensive care unit to provide more space for the influx of COVID-19 positive patients requiring critical care. Our team remained in constant communication with the Piedmont system’s incident command and the Georgia Department of Public Health to make sure we were following the best practices, processes, and procedures, and adhering to the CDC guidelines. 

Some of those processes required us to prohibit visitation and cancel all elective surgeries. This allowed us to conserve our PPE resources and deploy staff to other departments in need. Some of these employees served in the ICU or on medical/surgical units, while others supported our dietary department or environmental services. Everybody pitched in where they were needed. 

Recently, we have seen the number of COVID-19 positive patients at the hospital decline. Over the past few weeks we have started to re-open services for essential and time-sensitive procedures. We have created new processes to ensure that everyone remains safe. For instance, patients scheduled for surgical 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.   

I appreciate the trust that this community has placed in Piedmont Fayette during this extraordinary time. I am also very grateful for the outstanding support we received from individuals, local businesses, and organizations from Fayette County and beyond. 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 healthcare employees on the frontlines has been tremendous. 

Thank you for joining us as we move forward and continue to make a positive difference in every life we touch. 

Steve Porter is the CEO of Piedmont Fayette Hospital