Q-and-A with Atrium Health Stanly chief nurse on COVID-19

While everyone has been affected by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has already infected 20 people in Stanly, resulting in three deaths, the people who are arguably most impacted are medical professionals, risking their own lives to help save those infected with the disease.

The Stanly News & Press reached out to Marietta Abernathy, chief nurse executive at Atrium Health Stanly, to see how the hospital is dealing with the pandemic.

Does the hospital have enough hospital beds, personal protective equipment (PPE) and ventilators?

As part of our pandemic planning, we are coordinating and working with hospitals across our system to prepare for the anticipated influx of COVID-19 patients in the weeks ahead. Part of this preparation includes plans to create additional bed space within the hospital. In addition, we have been fortunate enough to receive donations of ventilators and PPE from community partners such as Stanly Community College.

Are there currently any COVID-19 patients in the hospital? 

Due to patient privacy and HIPAA regulations, we are unable to release any patient information and defer any reporting questions to the Stanly County Health Department and the State.

How busy is the hospital currently?

As you know, we’ve taken measures to minimize the spread of COVID-19 by limiting contact when possible such as the cancellation of elective procedures and visitor restrictions. We have seen an increase in the community’s use of our virtual care options, including eVisits and online/phone screening for COVID-19. Even with these efforts, we are seeing a slight increase in our daily census. However, we want to assure the community that we have the resources available to care for them here at the hospital if needed.

What can people in the community do to help flatten the curve?

We understand people are growing restless by staying at home to socially distance themselves, but it’s working and we are starting to see the effects. Here at the hospital, we’ve implemented a new procedure to screen anyone, including teammates and physicians, when they enter the facility. We urge everyone in the community to continue washing their hands and provide six feet of distance between themselves and others whenever possible. It’s reassuring to see local essential businesses join the efforts with markings on the floor and signage reminding the community of the importance of social distancing.

Is the hospital accepting PPE such as masks and face shields? 

PPE and hand sanitizer are in short supply across the country. We monitor our supply of items such as gloves, surgical masks and N95 respirators on a daily basis and have implemented procedures to help conserve our supplies. Given what we know and are witnessing in other areas of the country, we are doing everything we can to be prepared for a worst case scenario. A donation drive will be held on Friday, April 24 from Noon until 4 p.m. here at the hospital for companies, organizations and individuals to donate PPE such as hand-sewn masks, N95s, face shields and hand sanitizer. Our special events trailer typically seen at community events will be parked in the front parking lot and staffed to take these donations. AtriumHealth.org/together is where the community can find more information about donating. They can also email CommunityBenefit@AtriumHealth.org to coordinate a donation.

Across the country, state and even throughout Stanly County, there has been a major movement to thank and support healthcare workers and first responders. How does this make you feel?

I think most healthcare workers choose this profession because they want to help others, but none of us could ever foresee something of this magnitude occurring during our careers. We set aside time each year to show our appreciation internally to teammates for the work they do on a daily basis and everyone enjoys it. However, during these stressful times, it is truly humbling to see the support of our community pouring in on a daily basis. From meals and snacks being donated to our teammates to the noise we hear on Friday evenings, we appreciate it all. On behalf of our entire Atrium Health Stanly team, I want to thank our community for the support.