Columbus hospital CEOs face a balancing act between COVID patients and others

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This month has seen a dramatic rise in the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, stretching the Columbus hospitals and their staffs.

Scott Hill at Piedmont Columbus Regional and Melody Trimble at St. Francis-Emory Healthcare tell News 3 in exclusive interviews this week that it has not been easy but both hospitals are working through the COVID-19 crisis.

But it’s not just COVID patients the hospitals are dealing with.

“We have seen a surge of positive COVID cases that we are taking care of,” said Trimble. “The care they need and the resources that it takes to care for them is more than perhaps other patients. Maybe not always. But then we have the other patients we take care of every day that do not have COVID that are having surgical procedures and other needed procedures. And it is a balancing act that we do every day.”

As the COVID hospitalization numbers have risen steadily since Memorial Day, both local hospital systems — Piedmont and St. Francis — have been dealing with a multitude of issues.

Piedmont Columbus Regional is now treating COVID patients at both of its hospitals — the Midtown campus and Northside.

“Both hospitals are really busy right now,” said Scott Hill, CEO of Piedmont Columbus Regional and chief operating officer of Piedmont Healthcare and its 11 hospitals statewide. “We have a number of patients who have COVID and we have a lot of patients who don’t have COVID. We have patients who in the spring months put their healthcare off longer than they should have. There are a lot of sick folks coming to our ER and certainly not all of them have COVID. But we do have a number of patients with COVID. We have bed capacity and we are taking care of our patients,”

Piedmont and St. Francis have not been releasing COVID patient numbers. Columbus Mayor Skip Henderson has been giving out a blended number that includes all of the city’s hospitals. The high was 144 hospitalizations on Saturday. It was 128 on Wednesday.

Both CEOs said that the surge now is different from what they were dealing with back in the earlier days of the crisis.

There are about 4,500 people — from doctors to custodians — who work inside the three Columbus hospitals — Piedmont’s midtown and northside campuses and St. Francis.

Those people have been stretched thin in this crisis that started for earnest in our region back in early April.

But they have persisted.

“We are working really closely with our staff,” Hill said. “They truly are our heroes. Your ride around this community and you see these signs in front of the hospitals that say heroes work here, they really do.  And they are not immune. It’s our job to make sure we are serving them and giving them everything they need to take care of our patients at the bedside.”

Trimble started her job as CEO of St. Francis weeks before the crisis started. She has learned about her people in the midst of battle.

“They are an exceptional team,” Trimble said. “They have been working very, very diligently for the last 129 days. Long before that. These are unprecedented times for all of us in America, They are heroes and they show up every day. They leave their families and come to take care of everyone here in the hospital.”

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