FCHC reports COVID stress, tired staff

By David J. Coehrs - [email protected]

Fulton County Health Center has seen an uptick in people with COVID-19 symptoms, and medical personnel are starting to feel the strain.

“We continue to see an increase of people coming in with COVID-19 symptoms, both in the ER and new urgent care center,” said Steve McCoy, FCHC director of marketing and planning. “Our staff has been putting in additional hours, some staff have been working overtime, some of them double shifts, some of them 12-hour shifts.”

FCHC has maintained an average of four to seven COVID-19 patients daily. McCoy said some stay as long as three weeks, while others are transferred to medical facilities as far as Fort Wayne, Ind., and Cleveland if their symptoms require more care.

McCoy said between the COVID-19 surge and patients with other illnesses the hospital’s census is three times larger than normal for this time of year.

“It’s really put stress on the amount of med-surg staff that we have, so people have been flexing in and out of their departments as the need arises to take care of the additional patients we’ve been having,” he said. “Our biggest concern is, if we get to that point, is having enough staff to manage everything…if and when we could get to something like that. Our staff, they are getting tired, they are putting in a lot of hours.”

Designated by Medicare as a 25-bed critical access hospital, FCHC devised a plan last spring in case of a greater COVID-19 surge. McCoy said specified areas of the facility – such as the Critical Care Unit and the heart and vascular and same-day surgery areas – have negative pressure rooms from which air can’t escape, and can be converted to isolated COVID-19 treatment areas.

The facility also converted fourth-floor rooms in the south wing to negative pressure.

About 40% of emergency room visits each day involve COVID-19 symptoms. Tested patients show about a 16% positivity rate, about the same as the state average. Not all have to be admitted or receive care.

“But we are seeing an uptick in patients coming in with COVID in our ER, coming into our urgent care. The medical offices are all seeing an uptick as well,” McCoy said.

Fulton Manor, a nursing home on the FCHC campus, has seen positive results among residents and staff. Staff members are tested a couple of times each week, and residents once per week. The facility has an isolated wing reserved for treating its COVID-19 patients.

Medical offices located on the campus are also reporting an increase in patients reporting COVID-19 symptoms.

“The community’s support has been outstanding,” McCoy said. “Those things really mean a lot to us. And we continue to encourage the community to do their part,” such as wearing masks, social distancing, frequently washing hands, covering coughs, and staying home when possible.

“All of those things are vital to slow the spread, and if we can continue to go back to those basics it could be that we can weather the storm without a whole lot of more uptick,” he said.

By David J. Coehrs

[email protected]

Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.

Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.