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ICU Director: Albany hospital sees fewer critically sick COVID-19 patients

Updated: Apr. 22, 2020 at 8:22 AM EDT
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ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - The director of the Intensive Care Unit at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital in Albany, Dr. Jyotir Mehta, said they have turned a corner when it comes to getting very sick COVID-19 patients better.

At first, doctors in Albany said it didn't look like many COVID-19 patients who were sick enough to be on a ventilator would get better.

"It was very stressful, emotionally and physically, to the whole staff," Dr. Mehta explained.

From the start, he said it didn't take long for patients who came into the emergency room in Albany to be put in intensive care.

ICU rooms at Phoebe North
ICU rooms at Phoebe North(WALB)

"We were getting very, very sick patients, which were coming to the emergency room and within hours, they are on ventilators, and on multiple medications," he said.

Now, Dr. Mehta said it’s a different story. “Thank God, we have crossed that status,” Dr. Mehta said. “We are still getting folks who are exposed to and sick with COVID-19, but they are not as sick as they were.”

He said that could be because people are noticing their symptoms earlier and aren't waiting until they get critically sick to get medical help.

"When we got the first wave of folks who came in, they had ignored the symptoms for four days, five days, and (were) coming very short of breath, not able to even walk one or two steps. Now, we don't see those types of people," he explained.

He said they do have fewer patients in the ICUs now. Doctors have gotten to take several patients off the ventilators and see them go home and recover.

Phoebe Main Emergency Center
Phoebe Main Emergency Center(WALB)

Dr. Mehta said he thinks health care workers in Albany know more about how to treat these patients now than they did in the beginning.

“We were much ahead of the curve, so we learned much earlier how to take care of them,” he said. “We were very aggressive in trying to save lives. Now, we’re not getting folks who are very sick... Initially we thought no one was going to survive, but we should be able to save the lives of most of the patients.”

Dr. Mehta said he is optimistic that the Albany area is flattening the curve of coronavirus cases, but, he said we should know for sure in the next week.

Phoebe said Tuesday that the COVID-only ICUs at Phoebe Main in Albany were at capacity for several weeks, but now, they are no longer using the temporary ICU that was set up at Phoebe Main.

At both the main hospital and at Phoebe North, there is space right now for 41 ICU patients, with 33 patients in those ICUs as of Tuesday morning.

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