COVID-19 Discussed at Length
By Will Johnson
HOUSTON COUNTY – The Houston County Hospital District Board of Directors met in a relatively short meeting on Tuesday, July 21, highlighted by a report on the hospital provided by Crockett Medical Center (CMC) Administrator Tommy Johnson.
As the meeting got underway, HCHD Board President Barbara Crowson commented the current meeting’s agenda was rather abbreviated but the scheduled August meeting “… is tremendously important because we have to get our budget done and we have to set the tax rate. I hope you remember that and in the interim, we will be having some committee meetings, namely budget and finance, along with any others that seem appropriate.”
Once the June 16 minutes and June financial reports had been approved, the CMC administrator addressed the board.
“The quarterly numbers show, in the ER, we have had about 1,633 visits which is down about 40 percent from what we did during the same quarter last year. COVID-19 has affected that. I do not have a number on the Tele-Health visits yet. Hopefully, we will have those by the end of next month. It has been kind of complicated in how they are counting and scoring them,” Johnson said.
The in-patient numbers showed the hospital had 59 “stay-days” which was up a little, the administrator pointed out. On the out-patient side, Johnson reported 875 visits – down about 350. He explained the out-patient number usually includes labs and x-ray “… and what we are seeing is this is a product of Tele-Health because you can’t order labs or x-rays so it drives your numbers lower.”
“Surgeries,” Johnson continued, “when they let us re-open, in the quarter we have done 50 elective procedures. About 35 of those are essentially gastro-intestinal and urology. True surgeries were only about 15 where we did a hip replacement or something of that nature.”
The rural health clinic reported 591 visits while the specialty clinic reported 551, both of which were down when compared to last year’s numbers.
“COVID-19 has taken its toll. So everyone will know and to dispel any rumors, we have had two COVID-19 patients who came through the ER. We are not going to keep COVID-19 patients because if they need an ICU, we can’t do that. So, if they are a true respiratory compromised patient, we will transfer them out,” Johnson said.
However, he added CMC was in queue to receive patients from Dallas and Houston who were not infected by the virus “… because of their uptick in admissions. They are going out to different levels in order to get smaller hospitals to take some of their med-surge patients. They have not gotten to us yet, but if the peak continues, I imagine we will get there.”
Questioned if CMC had the staff to handle the possible influx of patients, Johnson replied the various hospitals would send staff to help care for the patients.
“I do know – today I got a report that said some of the positive cases have been antibody reports. They are antibody vs. antigen reports. Antibody says you have been exposed and you have an antibody to it. A lot of those positive reports have been antibody reports. The state is going back now and trying to separate those to see the true contamination and who has already had it. You are seeing some positives that are antibody tests from people who had positive antigens a month before. It’s a ness. I don’t know how they are going to figure this out,” Johnson said.
The hospital administrator was also asked about receiving state or federal funds to help combat the spread of the disease.
“The problem is,” Johnson replied, “We can’t even get the tests right now. We have received limited numbers of swabs. Even the city needed some swabs done, but because are a smaller hospital with less volume, we are given a specific number of swabs, so we are having to hang on to those and use them for our inpatients.”
As he continued, Johnson said he had been contacted by Houston County Emergency Coordinator Roger Dickey about another National Guard testing, but the dates and time had yet to be determined.
Johnson went on to say, “Hopefully, I’m in queue – probably four to six weeks out – of having our own machine to do testing here. We just invested in a new chemistry machine and it is capable, but the re-agent and swabs are not out there for us to test on. We had 150 swabs coming but they were intercepted and sent to Houston.”
Once Johnson finished, Board Member Dina Pies provided the ambulance report. Pipes indicated there were 259 requests for service and 106 patients were transported. There were also 39 hospital transfers, she said.
“On the helicopter,” Pipes continued, “there were 38 requests and seven were actual flights. Providing mutual aid – there were 17 responses, but mutual aid utilized was zero. If you look at the graph, 2020 is a little above 2018 and 2019 for call volume. On transports, they transported 56 percent to CMC. There was five percent to Huntsville, Woodland Heights was six percent, CHI Lufkin was five percent and Palestine Regional was 28 percent.”
With no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 5:50 pm.
Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at email@example.com.