For the last few weeks, our coverage has focused pretty heavily on the metro areas since those were the first and some of the hardest hit by coronavirus. We have also checked in with our rural hospitals to see how they are handling the crisis.
We have close to a dozen rural hospitals in the Augusta-Aiken area from Emanuel County to Edgfield County. We checked in on each one and on Friday, NewsChannel 6’s Ashley Osborne talked to the CEO of Jenkins County Medical Center in Millen, GA.
“We are seeing very few patients at the present time; however, we’ve had 2 patients that symptomatically presented to our emergency room,” says JCMC CEO Earl Whiteley.
Whitely say both patients were able to back home for quarantine. One test result came back negative and the other is pending. Their biggest challenge they are dealing with right now in Jenkins County is test turnaround time.
“That’s a major problem. It’s taking anywhere from 6 to 8 days to get a result back and in the meantime, the patient is in anxiety,” Whiteley says.”We really need to find a way, real quickly to test patients as they come in… this is extremely important especially if we get a spike in the number of patients coming into our facility.”
Whitely says the closest labs to them are in Statesboro, Savannah and Augusta and they have been instructed to send their COVID-19 samples to one of those labs.
“Most small hospitals are not equipped for that and so we have been instructed to send all of our testing through the reference labs that the state has set up,” Whitely explains. “It’s been averaging anywhere from 6 to 8 days to get results and that’s to me, unacceptable in terms of providing the best care and getting this virus under control.”
As for personal protective equipment at Jenkins County Medical Center, Whiteley says they are in a good spot now, but they are unsure about the future.
“We’re waiting for supplies. At the present time, you never know whether you have enough. In the last week we have received 2 shipments of PPE supplies,” Whiteley says. “We’re waiting for the possibility of what may happen in the future.”
Whiteley says the best way people in Jenkins County can help to keep the spread of COVID-19 at a minimum is stay home. He also says, unless it’s an emergency, call your doctor or local emergency department ahead of time instead of simply showing up to a medical facility with coronavirus-like symptoms.
Listen to the full conversation with Earl Whiteley below