Rural hospitals implementing precautions to prevent spread of COVID-19

METTER, Ga. (WTOC) – Hospitals of all sizes are asking some potential patients to stay away to avoid getting or passing COVID-19.

Once upon a time, hospitals like the one in Metter would see patients of all kinds at all hours of the day or night. Now, they’re asking people questions so they can help screen themselves before they just show up here.

The hospital opened its own urgent care office just before the pandemic. Now, they treat as two separate facilities, one side for COVID and the other for non-COVID patients. They’re trying to cut down the volume of people showing up to the emergency room to possibly expose others to the virus or expose themselves.

Hospital officials say a pandemic hasn’t stopped heart attacks, strokes, or life threatening injuries. They’re trying to protect everyone.

“If you come to the hospital, we’re going to address the most immediate needs first. If you need testing, but aren’t showing symptoms, we’ll certainly be glad to help make sure you get tested,” said Marty Ray, with the Candler County Hospital.

He says they’re working with the local health department, doctors’ offices, and pharmacies to get people tested elsewhere when needed and treated whether they have COVID or not.

He says answering a few quick question can help save you from an unnecessary trip.

Rural hospital staff members continuing COVID fight

Staff members at Candler County Hospital say their numbers may be small, but they face just as much of a challenge from COVID-19 as their big city counterparts.

Staff members say they were hopeful a few months ago that the end was in sight.

“It was like, almost out of the blue, it shot back up again,” nurse Rachel Sikes said.

Candler County Hospital has just 25 beds, but 14 of the current patients have COVID. They’re isolating them from other patients to prevent the spread. That means taking steps of precaution as the smaller staff tries to treat patients and protect them and themselves.

“We pretty much wear our masks all the time for COVID. As far as PPE, our gowns, our gloves, our goggles,” nurse Rebekah Usher said.

Both nurses say they’re grateful to the hospital for bringing in meals or drinks – the kinds of things they can’t simply leave to go get on a break without worry of picking up the virus or spreading it themselves.

“You certainly don’t want to take it anywhere else, so you really have to be mindful of the PPE you’re wearing and the rooms you’ve been in and out of and try to sanitize as much as possible.”

They say a single team member missing work hits harder here than in bigger places. Both say everyone has pulled together to hopefully see the end very soon.

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