Marshall Medical Centers have had a rough few weeks of dealing with COVID-19 in the county, but the situation for healthcare providers is getting a little better.
It came up at an update held by local health officials in the County Commission chambers Thursday morning at the Marshall County Courthouse to discuss the current COVID-19 pandemic in the county.
"Marshall County has had a rough past three weeks," said Anita McBurnett, Director of Marshall County Emergency Management Agency. "We just wanted to gather today and give everyone an update on where we stand in our county from the last time we met four weeks ago."
Kathy Woodruff, Director of Nursing for Marshall Medical Centers, started the the open discussion.
"We have been extremely busy at the hospitals and the last four weeks have been very challenging for us. There were many days that we reached capacity," she continued. "But this past week, I'm not jumping up and down or celebrating too much because it makes me a little nervous and I don't want to celebrate too soon but we have had many, many discharges. So our capacity is better and we are able to feel a little sense of relief and that's very encouraging. Our staff is tired but they are working very, very hard with a positive attitude, which is also encouraging."
Woodruff says they have great teams of employees at both campuses.
"Everyone is working well together to get through this. It's kind of like, we are in this together and everyone knows that. So, that's a wonderful thing to do," she said.
According to Woodruff, there were 25 COVID-19 positive patients at Marshall Medical Centers total Thursday, 16 at Marshall South and 9 at Marshall North.
Their max, when things were being stretched, was 36 positive patients between the two facilities.
"I know that doesn't sound like a lot but for two small hospitals, that's a very large number," she said.
In their Intensive Care Unit (ICU), they have 5 patients at North and 5 patients at South.
"This also doesn't sound like a big number, but when you only have 20 beds between the two campuses, that is a high number," she continued.
"These patients stay in the hospital for an extended time. Our average time today is between 3 and 4 days. But these patients stay with us for one week, to two weeks. For example, we just released one patient who had been with us since June 3rd. They are very sick and they stay a long, long time," Woodruff said.
Currently, Marshall North has 3 patients who require the use of a ventilator and 2 patients on ventilators at South..
"We have been very fortunate to have enough ventilators and PPE to take care of our patients," Woodruff said.
Marshall Medical Centers has tested 2,900 people for COVID-19.
They have had 165 admissions since March and 126 discharges.
"The majority of our patients are going home, which is wonderful," Woodruff said.
There have been 24 COVID-19 related deaths between the two hospitals.
"Many of those deaths have came within the last few weeks and that's kind of a sad thing to report," she continued.
"All in all, we've had a total of 28 deaths in Marshall County," added McBurnett. "I think we have one pending right now, so that number could go up today to 29."
Judy Smith, RN, MPH, Area Administrator Northern District for the Alabama Department of Public Health, started off by saying, "Tough times never last, tough people do."
"We are going to have a vaccine, it might be the end of this year, it might be the beginning of next year. We don't know but we will have a vaccine. The trials are looking great but in the meantime, we have people who are hurting and people who are dying," she said. "In Marshall County, we have 2,727 cases as of this morning. We will have a vaccine, but right now we are in a gap. While we are waiting for that vaccine we also have a treatment it's called M.D.S. The treatment is Mask. Distance. Sanitize. It's really not hard at all."
Smith said one of the biggest problems they are facing is people taking this seriously.
"We saw a spike after Memorial Day and then another after July 4th," she continued." "Some people still think it's a hoax. It's not a hoax. It's not a hoax to those people who have died or for people who have had to be put on a respirator or when your child is sick. It is not a hoax. This is a serious disease. We are still seeing episodes where people are deciding that it's not going to affect them. Every day I get a complaint or a picture or something, where some group has gotten together, and these are people who know better, people who should take this seriously. And then after that, we have another uptick in this county. You know, if you want to give to the county, if you want to donate to your county, donate something good. Donate something that's going to build them up. Don't donate some illness that is going to potentially tear this county down."
Dr. Victor Sparks, Medical Director of the Emergency Department Marshall Medical Center North, said, "Everybody in this room has had a conversation about seat belts and how seat belts do not save lives. Well, statistics are plan and simple but that does not mean that no one hasn't ever died with a seat belt. But when you look at things statistically, that's not going to happen near as much as that seat belt is going to save your life," said Sparks. "So, when you look at it from the perspective of what we are telling you, driven by science, the masking, the distancing, the sanitizing actually is going to minimize your risk, then let us tell you that."
Sparks said they are trying to give the absolute best information to the public as it comes.
"Now sometimes, things change. That doesn't mean that it was a hoax or a ploy on our part in the beginning to make you do something that you didn't want to do. That means that as time goes along, we learned," he continued.
"Your friend, neighbor or brother that doesn't have a mask, nudge them and say, hey, where's your mask? You should also keep a spare mask in your car in your glove box, in your pocket or your purse, just whatever you can. Be prepared when you go out."
Another update is planned in four weeks.