By Len Robbins – Editor & Publisher
Clinch County is in the midst of a “dangerous, severe” outbreak of the COVID-19 virus, pushing its community hospital to its limits.
Across Georgia and the southern United States, a COVID surge has put hospitals in dire situations – including Homerville’s Clinch Memorial Hospital.
“It’s a scary situation right now, and our community needs to take this seriously,” Clinch Memorial Hospital CEO Angela Ammons said Thursday. “The reality is, we can’t send patients out if they need a higher level of care because there’s nowhere to send them. We are having to admit and care for patients that we are not designed to do. There is no other option. Hospitals that used to be available to accept higher acuity patients are over-run with COVID patients themselves. We have not been able to find an accepting physician or hospital within 300 miles, and are starting to reach out to North Carolina and beyond.”
Ammons said the hospital is still taking patients who are sick, but the outpouring of positive COVID-19 cases in the area has stretched the hospital’s resources. Clinch Memorial is a 25-bed critical access facility, with no ICU.
“We’ll do everything we can, but our resources are limited,” said Ammons. “We are on our own. We need the community to understand our predicament.”
Clinch County is in the midst of the worst outbreak since the pandemic began early in 2020. In the past two weeks, over 60 Clinch residents have tested positive for the virus, according to the state Department of Public Health. Clinch is 4th (out of 159 Georgia counties) in cases per capita, and has had 580 total cases and 14 COVID-related deaths since the pandemic began. A website that tracks the virus, CovidActNow.org, has Clinch County has having the third-highest positivity rate in the state (49.9 percent), making it one of the most dangerous counties in the nation for COVID spread. The website characterizes Clinch County as being in the middle of a “dangerous, severe outbreak.”
Clinch Memorial Hospital has reopened its drive-thru testing due to the increase in cases. The drive-thru testing, in the CMH parking lot, is open 8 a.m.-5 p.m. from Monday-Friday, and from 8 a.m.-noon on weekends and New Year’s Day. Ammons said that due to an increase in testing across the state, test results are taking longer to come back – often up to 72 hours. She urged people to be patient, and not get a test “just in case.”
“People can do their part by adhering to CDC guidelines, and by abstaining from social gatherings, dining out, wearing their mask, and washing their hands,” said Ammons.