ROSWELL, Ga. — Wellstar North Fulton is now on a better track for treating COVID-19 cases, according to Wellstar North Fulton Hospital President Jon-Paul Croom.
Croom, along with Family Medicine Physician Dr. Jignesh Dholaria, spoke June 19 at a virtual panel Roswell Inc hosted on the pandemic.
The North Fulton facility was one of the last in the Wellstar Health System to get a positive COVID-19 case, but like most hospitals, it struggled in the early days to get adequate personal protective equipment, Croom said.
One of the main issues behind this shortage, he said, was that their usual PPE manufacturers were stationed in Wuhan, China, where the virus first surfaced.
But local efforts to shelter-in-place and socially distance helped flatten the curve for hospitals like Wellstar North Fulton relatively quickly, Croom said.
“One of the benefits that we had in the Roswell area is that many people live in single homes,” he said. “It’s easier to socially distance, and many people have jobs that were able to telecommute.”
Wellstar North Fulton was also able to add 50 negative pressure rooms to its facility during the outbreak by using HEPA filters, Croom said. The negative pressure rooms helped keep COVID-19 patients in isolation by preventing the virus from escaping the room.
With a combination of such efforts, Croom said, the number of COVID-19 cases in Wellstar North Fulton has started to level off and has nearly plateaued. Doctors are now seeing almost the same number of positive patients as they are discharging, he said.
In the past couple of weeks, the facility has begun relaxing some of its restrictions. Patients, at the discretion of their physician, can safely come in for elective surgeries or procedures, and visitation opportunities have expanded.
Wellstar North Fulton, like many organizations, took a large hit from the pandemic, Croom said.
“A lot of people that we must have have been incredibly busy,” he said. “Well, we were busy with COVID-19 patients, but a hospital does many, many things beyond just infectious disease.”
Croom also said he is very grateful for all of the support Wellstar has been receiving from the community, from encouraging signage to various donations.
“I can’t say how meaningful it is to be a part of the Roswell business community,” Croom said. “We are so appreciative.”
Wellstar is still preparing for any possible rebound in cases.
Dholaria cautioned that infectious disease experts are projecting a second wave of COVID-19 cases, which will likely peak in the fall when temperatures cool.
Dholaria said the hospital is better prepared this time, with better testing methods and PPE supplies.
“Is it perfect? I don’t think it is,” he said. “But are we getting there? Absolutely, as every day goes by. We are able to diagnose it quicker. We are able to get treatments quicker. Because of that, I think the severity of what we are seeing right now is a lot less than the severity of what we saw when the first wave came.”
The “new normal” brought on by the pandemic has not only impacted people’s physical health. It has also been a source of anxiety, depression and frustration for many people adapting to their new routines.
But it doesn’t mean that people should put their lives completely on hold, Dholaria said.
He urged anyone struggling with these issues to tell someone or reach out to a provider.