by Robin Kemp
Clayton County’s hospital, Southern Regional Medical Center, has been slammed by a tidal wave of COVID-19 cases since the Delta variant broke out. The Clayton Crescent reported on emergency room diversions there and at hospitals in nearby counties.
We asked Clayton County Fire and Emergency Services how the diversions have impacted their operations and what people should do if they think they need to go to the ER during the COVID-19 pandemic.
What they said
Looking at Louisiana’s current situation, where they may be doing in-place care by week’s end, what will Clayton County do should all metro area ERs fill up?
“The demand for healthcare has reached an all-time high while access to and availability remains a critical issue in Clayton County. Therefore, CCFES has been planning for this day for many years.
“‘In fact, reports dated as far back as 1996 predicted the healthcare crisis we are now facing in our country,’ said Fire Chief Landry Merkison.
“In May 2015, CCFES launched the pilot Community Paramedicine Program, the first phase of a Mobile Integrated Healthcare (MIH) Initiative to treat and educate chronic and non-emergent patients in their homes and to provide them an optimal healthcare solution outside the 911 and emergency room setting to reduce ER utilization and keeping people at home.
“CCFES developed the Community Treatment Unit program (CTU) as a health care initiative designed to provide excellent care by pioneering a retro-engineered strategy to deliver the highest level of community care and education possible. Clinical care excellence is achieved through physician-directed, data-driven, and patient-centered medical care, which allows our Nurse Practitioners to provide treatment in place options for our community.
The nationally recognized Community Treatment Unit program is a round-the-clock county service that enables residents to receive problem-centered medical care often without leaving home. The program is in full operation and available 24/7 to all Clayton County citizens. In addition, the CTU program has been fully integrated into the 911 response system for the county.”
What should people do if they begin to think they might need to go to the ER for whatever reason?
“If citizens feel that they may need to go to the ER for a medical emergency, CCFES reminds them to please dial 911. In addition, our CTU program will continue to support the health care needs of our citizens and offer treatment in the home if appropriate.”
Since the COVID-19 crisis began, CCFES also has provided medical oversight for COVID-19 vaccinations at Clayton County Public Schools and conducted COVID-19 testing for students at Clayton State University.
What this information means for you
If you have a cough or a fever, you should call your health care provider. If you don’t have one, call the Clayton County Health District at (678) 610-7199 for an appointment or the COVID-19 Call Center at (678) 479-2223.
Visit CCHD’s website to pre-register for COVID-19 tests and vaccinations–they are free. The test site is at Rock Springs Baptist Church, 5900 Reynolds Road, Morrow (next to the dog park) and is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.-4 p.m.
If you do not have a computer or smartphone, call (844) 625-6522 and press option 3 for help registering.
When you should call 911
Call 911 right away if you or someone else is having any of these symptoms:
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Chest pain or pressure that won’t stop
- Sudden confusion
- The person cannot be awakened
- Bluish lips or face
If you think you have been exposed to COVID-19, be sure to tell the 911 operator so that EMTs or paramedics can put on the proper PPE and know how to take care of you best. The 911 operator may ask you about your symptoms or possible exposure as part of that response. It is not a HIPAA violation for them to do so. The 911 operator also might ask you to perform certain tasks like CPR (learn how here) or turning on a porch light.
Absolutely do not hang up the phone until first responders arrive. If you can call from a landline, that automatically sends E911 your address. A cell phone does not do that but some carries are able to send your phone’s latitude and longitude to Clayton County 911. Use what you have and be prepared to state your address or the nearest intersection to where you are.
Here is a handy chart from the you can print out and post on your refrigerator or elsewhere in your home or office about when to call 911 and when not to:
You can help stop the spread of COVID-19, which can be deadly for healthy people as well as people with weakened immune systems, by taking four simple steps from the Clayton County Health District:
- Stay home: If you are experiencing symptoms, please continue to follow the CDC guidelines of 10-14 days of self-isolation.
- Practice social distancing: Keep at least 6 feet between yourself and other people.
- Wash your hands: Use soap and water and scrub for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer (60% alcohol) if soap and water aren’t readily available.
- Wear a mask: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend the use of face masks to help slow the spread of COVID-19, especially where social distancing is difficult to maintain (grocery stores, pharmacies, etc.), and especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.(Be sure the mask covers your nose as well as your mouth and that it fits snugly but comfortably on your face.)
To limit exposure to COVID-19, encourage others to take these steps and avoid situations where people do not follow these guidelines.
Check how crowded area hospitals are and whether they are diverting emergency patients to other hospitals (for details, see our recent story on how COVID-19 is impacting local ERs):
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