Athens Hospitals Forced to Divert Patients Due to High Volume Wednesday

Jul 16, 2020

Both Athens hospitals experienced such high volumes of traffic Wednesday that they had to divert patients to other hospitals. Diversion means facilities send all incoming patients and ambulances to other hospitals. District 7 Commissioner Russell Edwards addressed the situation.

Credit Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

“It started out with just one hospital being on diversion and the patients were sent to the other hospital meaning they were both full, not accepting patient transfers, but because of federal law, they have to accept emergency patients. They both were forced into something like a triage situation where they were both compelled to accept emergency patients even though they were on total diversion.”

Edwards says while diversion happens, his main concern is the way in which he and other county leaders found out the information.

“Basically what is shows is that our local public health infrastructure is under strain in the dead of the summer and that concerns me. It concerns me that once again this information is coming to us not through any sort of state reporting guideline or local report, it’s coming from whistleblowers.

Both hospitals are back to normal operations and they issued statements regarding the situation. A release from St. Mary’s says that “diversion was due to high volumes from a number of causes. Currently we are not on diversion and are fully open to anyone who needs care.”

Piedmont Athens Regional

“The vast majority of patients in Piedmont Athens Regional are not being treated for COVID-19. We continue to treat patients for both routine and emergent visits, major surgeries, and labor and delivery. These patients, combined with the volume of COVID patients, are populating our hospital.”

Athens has 1,087 confirmed cases of coronavirus infections. There are more than 131-thousand cases in the state with 3,104 deaths and over 14-thousand hospitalizations.

FILE-St. Mary's Hospital.

St. Mary's Statement:

Yesterday, St. Mary's experienced higher than anticipated volumes and briefly was on diversion. By working with our sister facilities and our medical staff, we were able to facilitate safe and appropriate discharges and return quickly to normal operations. Throughout the diversion period, we continued to accept patients into our Emergency Department and triaged them appropriately. Yesterday's diversion was due to high volumes from a number of causes. Currently we are not on diversion and are fully open to anyone who needs care.

Piedmont Athens Regional Statement:

The vast majority of patients in Piedmont Athens Regional are not being treated for COVID-19. We continue to treat patients for both routine and emergent visits, major surgeries, and labor and delivery. These patients, combined with the volume of COVID patients, are populating our hospital.

As is the case across the state, we have seen an increase in COVID patients but our resources and staffing are stable. As is the case with normal operations, bed availability fluctuates in the hospital from time to time. Diversion is a situation that arises when Emergency Department (ED) and inpatient beds fill up and EMS providers are instructed to take patients requiring a bed elsewhere, a frequent occurrence for hospitals and one that transpired this week. However, we continue to treat patients on an outpatient basis at our ED.”

FILE-Piedmont Athens Regional.
Credit Piedmont Athens Regional

“It’s clear that COVID-19 is part of our collective day-to-day reality and we have incorporated the treatment of these patients into our ongoing approach, while also meeting the healthcare needs of our much larger patient base. Our patients trust Piedmont for everything from emergent to ongoing medical care. We typically don’t release information on the number of patients on any given day for any specific treatment, like heart, cancer or stroke patients. We’re using that same standard for COVID-19 and we trust that the relevant state health and emergency management agencies are the best source for ongoing information.

Importantly, we urge everyone to continue keep themselves and loved ones safe across COVID-19 and wear a mask, wash your hands and watch your distance, but equally to seek healthcare care when needed. It’s alarming that we continue to see people in our communities unnecessarily avoiding needed health care – even emergency care, when it’s a life-threatening situation like stroke or heart attack where every minute counts.”