‘We’re getting to the point where we’re full’: Phoebe, Dougherty Co. leaders concerned about rise in COVID-19 cases

‘We’re getting to the point where we’re full’: Phoebe, Dougherty Co. leaders concerned about rise in COVID-19 cases
Phoebe hospital staff (Source: Phoebe)

ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - Phoebe Putney Health System leaders are concerned about staffing as they continue to see an increase in COVID-19 patients in their hospitals.

On Christmas Eve afternoon, Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital had 79 COVID-19 patients in Albany, while there were 10 at Phoebe Sumter.

That’s almost 90 patients total and CEO Scott Steiner said they only had 22 COVID-19 patients a week before Thanksgiving.

Phoebe is seeing a record number of positive COVID-19 cases at its facilities.

“Four, five, six times what we saw just four weeks ago,” said Steiner.

Scott Steiner
Scott Steiner (Source: WALB)

It’s not just COVID-19 patients that are filling up hospital beds, but also people suffering from cancer, strokes and heart attacks.

“When we say all in, COVID and others were surging,” commented Steiner.

Steiner said right now they are not accepting transfer COVID-19 patients from facilities outside of Phoebe and they’re not transferring anyone out. Hopefully, this will help keep them from running out of room for patients.

“We’re getting to the point where we’re full,” Steiner told WALB News 10.

Steiner said they have all the supplies they need but it’s staffing that’s really a concern right now. He said about 3,000 of the around 5,500 Phoebe employees are being asked and volunteering to work overtime during the pandemic.

“We got a great team working on it so we are hiring temporary staff, we’re hiring permanent staff, we’re offering some incredible bonuses,” explained Steiner.

Steiner thinks brighter days could be ahead as vaccines continue to be distributed, but he is encouraging everyone to avoid large holiday gatherings.

“So, if it continues to surge, we’re gonna have a few dark days here,” Steiner said.

The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) reports new COVID-19 cases have increased by nine percent in one week across the state.

Dougherty County is not seeing increases in COVID-19 positive cases like many other parts of Georgia, according to the latest reports by DPH.

DPH said these weekly increases reflect “our highest case numbers ever and are not decreasing or leveling off any time soon.”

Dougherty County Commission Chair Chris Cohilas said their holiday message for everyone is to continue to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and stay away from large holiday gatherings.

Chris Cohilas
Chris Cohilas (Source: WALB)

Cohilas said City of Albany, Dougherty County, healthcare and educational officials team up weekly to help keep COVID-19 numbers down in our area.

“We literally talk through our plans each week, we analyze the data, we coordinate public relations information. We put out messaging such as this interview itself and through that process, we proliferated over half a million masks out into the community, frankly, when masks were scarce,” said Cohilas.

The latest state report shows Dougherty County and Calhoun County don’t have high transmission rate increases, but most other Southwest Georgia counties do.

Cohilas reminds residents that the mask resolution remains in place in Albany and Dougherty County.

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