COVID-19: A different fight now than it was in the spring, Columbus hospital CEOs tell News 3


St. Francis-Emory Healthcare CEO Melody Trimble Wednesday in her Columbus office.

The two Columbus hospital systems are fighting COVID-19 today in a vastly different way than back in the spring when the pandemic started, the chief executive officers of the hospitals tell News 3.

In exclusive interviews with Piedmont Columbus Regional CEO Scott Hill and St. Francis-Emory Healthcare CEO Melody Trimble, News 3 learned that treatments and patient outcomes are vastly better.

“The difference between what happened in the spring and what’s happening now is the number of those patients in regular hospital beds,” said Hill, who also serves as chief operating officer for the 11-hospital Piedmont system.

As of Tuesday, there were 132 COVID patients in the three Columbus hospitals. But that number changes daily, if not hourly.

“There are a lot of patients, absolutely. I think we have gotten better at recognizing it.,” Trimble said. “We’ve gotten better at treatments. … We have the capability of testing much quicker now, We understand this disease. We have learned a lot as a body of health in the United States.”

The treatment protocols have improved dramatically, Hill said.

“…  Remdesivir, the drug a lot of people have heard about, convalescent plasma, which is plasma from people who have had the disease — and just the advancement of treatment protocols,” he said. “When physicians need to intervene with antibiotics versus steroids have enabled us to treat patients in a regular hospital bed opposed to an ICU setting.”

One sign that the local hospital system has been able to manage the crisis with existing resources is that the 36 additional beds at Doctors Hospital on the Piedmont Midtown campus have been ready for more than three months, but not activated.

“I will be honest with you, we have had a lot of conversations about when we might need to activate Doctors Hospital, but we have not gotten to that point yet,” Hill said.

The ability to stand up the Doctors unit quickly was made possible by a $1 million gift from Aflac Chairman Dan Amos and his wife, Kathleen. Others in the community also donated to make the $2 million project possible.

The highest number of Columbus hospital COVID patients was 144 on Saturday. Hill about it moving in the right direction. But it is not something he’s ready to talk about and he used a baseball analogy.

“You talk about a no-hitter while it’s happening,” Hill said.

The seven-day rolling average for cases in Columbus is currently 70. 

Trimble urges people to wear masks and take all precautions to keep from spreading the virus.

“I went into a store over the weekend with my mask on. And my husband and I, and I literally won’t say the store, But I was so excited because I literally did not see one person in that store without a mask on, I told my husband, I just want to get up on that table and dance to say thank you for caring enough to keep my team safe so we can carry for you.”

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