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Phoebe Approaches New COVID Peak


This morning, Phoebe is caring for 180 COVID-19 patients in its hospitals, just four shy of the peak it reached on April 9, 2020 when the Albany area was a leading global pandemic hotspot.  With COVID-19 cases surging at an alarming rate, Phoebe is postponing all elective surgeries at its main hospital to make additional clinical staff available to focus on the hospital’s COVID response.  The suspension of non-urgent surgical cases is effective immediately.

“Our current situation is untenable.  By postponing elective cases, we will free up operating room resources to best serve our community in this time of desperate need,” said Jason Williams, MD, Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital Medical Director of Perioperative Services.

Phoebe will maintain appropriate staffing levels in its operating rooms to ensure no emergency or urgent procedures are delayed.  Other physicians, nurses, certified registered nurse anesthetists, certified anesthesiologist’s assistants and surgical techs will be reassigned.  “Our staff will be able to assist in COVID and non-COVID units and help us expand our administration of monoclonal antibody infusions, so more COVID patients can avoid hospitalization.  Basically, we’ll be available to do whatever is needed to bolster our COVID response,” Dr. Williams said.

Yesterday, Phoebe began notifying patients scheduled for upcoming procedures of the postponements.  “We know this is an inconvenience for patients, and this is a decision we hoped to avoid, but we simply have no choice,” said Dianna Grant, MD, Phoebe Putney Health System Chief Medical Officer.  “We hope people in the community will see this postponement of elective procedures for what it is – a clear indication of the seriousness of the current COVID crisis and our determined effort to ensure we are able to continue to provide the appropriate level of care to every patient who comes through our doors.”

Phoebe Sumter in Americus is reducing its number of elective procedures but is not suspending them altogether.  “For now, we can still accommodate outpatient procedures that will not require a patient to need a hospital room.  Any elective procedures that could require a hospital admission will be postponed.  We will re-evaluate our status daily and make whatever changes are necessary to continue to meet the healthcare needs of our community,” said Brandi Lunneborg, Phoebe Sumter Chief Executive Officer.

Phoebe has also instituted other programs to boost clinical staffing levels in response to the ongoing COVID-19 surge.  In addition to hiring new employees and bringing on additional contract staff, Phoebe has implemented a generous incentive and bonus initiative for clinical workers who pick up extra shifts.  Around 200 employees have also signed up to participate in a “Helping Hands” program which allows them to work shifts performing non-clinical duties in patient care areas so clinical workers can focus all their time and energy on patients.