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Health Executive on COVID: ‘We’re Doing this to Ourselves’

Hospital leaders are more stressed about trying to get people to wear masks and take other precautions than they are about dealing with the present surge, which includes having enough beds, protective equipment or staff.

Two health-care workers outsie a parked ambulance.
(TNS) - Day after day, Greensboro-based Cone Health keeps breaking its record for the number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19. Although its Green Valley campus hospital can care for additional patients, the health system is readying rooms at its other hospitals.
As of early Friday, the health system had 125 patients with COVID-19, not including people in the emergency rooms. That's up from 119 on Thursday, 107 on Wednesday and 103 on Tuesday. So that's four days in a row of all-time records for COVID-19 patients, a Cone Health spokesman said.
The Moses Cone, Wesley Long, and Green Valley hospital campuses in Greensboro, Alamance Regional Medical Center in Burlington, and Annie Penn Hospital in Reidsville are among Cone Health's facilities.
With people in the emergency rooms included, Cone Health recorded 143 COVID-19 patients early Friday morning.
Sunday's COVID-19 update
Number of N.C. cases: There were 4,514 new cases as of noon Sunday, breaking Thursday's record of 4,296 cases in a single day, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. Four of North Carolina's five highest daily case totals have come since Wednesday. The cumulative total is 336,775. There were a total of 43,862 tests completed Saturday. Of the tests returned Friday, 7.1% were positive, according to the latest data available.
In Guilford County: There were 413 new cases reported since Friday and three new deaths reported since then, according to state health officials. That brings the case total to 15,355 (286 cases per 10,000 residents), with 230 deaths.
N.C. deaths: In all, 5,034 state residents have died. That's 55 more than reported Friday, though the date of these deaths can vary.
N.C. hospitalizations: With 97% of hospitals reporting, 1,571 people were hospitalized Saturday because of the coronavirus, according to the latest state data. That's 19 fewer than Friday.
"The numbers are increasing dramatically, and it is a direct result of the behavior or misbehavior of people in our communities," said Bruce Swords, chief physician executive at Cone Health. "We are doing this to ourselves."
He said hospital leaders are more stressed about trying to get people to wear masks and take other COVID-19 precautions than they are about dealing with the present case surge, which includes having enough beds, protective equipment or staff. Changing people's actions so that more cases can be prevented is what hospital officials can't get a handle on.
"Everything else is within our control and we can manage it," he said.
On Friday, 83 patients COVID-19 patients were being treated at the Green Valley campus hospital in Greensboro. The current capacity is 116 at the facility, which is the former Women's Hospital.
Cone Health decided to use the Green Valley site to focus just on COVID-19 cases this past spring. Its goal is to treat all patients with COVID-19 at Green Valley. However, Swords said some COVID-19 patients must be treated elsewhere to get specialized care for heart attacks and strokes, urgent surgeries, child birth assistance, pediatric care and hemodialysis. Green Valley does not have an emergency department.
Swords said if patients begin to outnumber the existing beds at Green Valley, the hospital system likely would add beds there in areas such as operating rooms or post-anesthesia rooms. Cone Health also could shift more COVID-19 patients to the other hospitals, even if they don't require specialized care for other conditions.
Cone Health is up-fitting some rooms at its other hospitals to possibly serving COVID-19 patients, Swords said. That involves reconfiguring the ventilation in rooms so that air from inside the room does not leak into the hallway but instead passes through a filter and gets piped outside.
Ideally, Cone Health would prefer to keep with the current system, where most COVID-19 patients are isolated at Green Valley. Among other benefits, that system has allowed them to conserve protective equipment and save time for staff. But Swords acknowledged that hospitalizations are likely to keep rising, unless behavior changes.
"It is because of our community members really not doing the right thing from a community service point of view," he said.
Contact Jessie Pounds at 336-373-7002 and follow @JessiePounds on Twitter.
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