Augusta Health: ‘We’re ready’ to deal with COVID-19

Augusta HealthAugusta Health Chief Medical Officer William Doherty and Incident Commander Scott Just briefed the local news media Thursday on the hospital’s COVID-19 response preparations.

The message delivered: we’re prepared.

“We have ramped up everything here at Augusta Health. We are ready for the inevitability that we will be seeing COVID-19 patients. We will take care of them,” Doherty said.

Doherty detailed the steps taken by Augusta Health in line with its emergency operations plan. He said the hospital has made some operational changes to able to deal with an anticipated surge in patients due to the pandemic.

At this writing, there are no confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Greater Augusta area, but one could presume that may have as much to do with the limited testing that has been done locally as anything else.

Pressed for data on how many tests had been conducted by staff at Augusta Health to date, Doherty and Just offered a ballpark of 40 to 50, a shockingly low number that is a reflection of the situation with testing issues nationwide.

More test kits are expected, but the timing on the arrival of the tests is not known, Just said, stressing that Augusta Health has tests on hand, and that testing is being conducted based on the severity of symptoms and priority, in conjunction with the Virginia Department of Health guidelines.

“Testing availability is a precious resource across the country here, so we are taking an algorithmic approach to that, and basically testing those with a high severity of symptoms, with the greatest number of risk factors, and balancing that with our availability of tests,” Doherty said.

“We have tested folks both on an in-patient and out-patient basis that met the criteria for testing. We wish we had more tests available. Every hospital in the country wishes they had more tests available. Right now, it is the limited supply that is being the governor on how much testing can be done,” Doherty said.

Doherty cautioned local residents against getting complacent given the current lack of COVID-19 cases.

“We’ve been fortunate here in the Valley not to have right in our immediate area any confirmed cases. But if you look at the spread of this disease across the country and the pockets that have formed, it is now a global pandemic. Frankly, we fully anticipate that we will have COVID-19-positive patients in our community. The message I would give is, folks should not let their guard down on this,” Doherty said.

Story by Chris Graham

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