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Georgia hospitals divert ambulances as reports of full ICUs continue

A few hospitals in metro Atlanta say they've had to divert patients to other hospitals as the number of COVID-19 cases continue to rise.

ATLANTA — It’s been said more testing will lead to the diagnosis of more COVID-19 cases. That is true. In the month of July, testing has increased 35 percent, with almost 440,000 new tests. But new cases have risen 45 percent - a sign, epidemiologists say, our recent surge is about more than test availability.

A key indicator of the severity of the virus's impact is the number of active COVID-19 patients being treated at hospitals throughout the state. Georgia Emergency Management (GEMA) publishes this number each day. 

Regardless of whether you had a test, if you’re sick enough to need medical care, you’re going to go to the hospital. That number keeps rising.

On Monday, GEMA reported 3,183 active COVID-19 patients, 147 more patients than Sunday.

RELATED: Coronavirus in Georgia | Latest numbers for Monday, July 20

Credit: WXIA
New cases vs. current hospitalizations in Georgia on July 20, 2020

GEMA said that in Health Region D – which covers most of the metro, 17 percent of intensive care unit (ICU) beds are open and the emergency rooms have plenty of space. Still, four hospitals had to divert ambulances at some point on Monday to other locations and seven reported their ICUs were full.

Diversions can happen when a hospital doesn’t have enough beds, equipment, or staff.

Piedmont Newton has more COVID - and suspected COVID - patients now than at any time during the pandemic. Emory Johns Creek also has a record number of cases for its location.

11Alive reached out to Piedmont Healthcare and WellStar Health System, two health systems that reported the most capacity issues on Monday. You can read the statements below. 

Piedmont Healthcare Statement: 

“The majority of patients across Piedmont hospitals are being treated for planned and important routine and emergent visits, major surgeries, and labor and delivery. We also treat patients that come in for unplanned emergencies, including an increasing number of COVID-19 patients. Therefore, demand for our services fluctuates, while our resources and staffing are stable, which frequently results in diversions. When the Emergency Department (ED) and inpatient beds fill up, EMS providers are instructed to take patients requiring a bed elsewhere. Importantly, we continue to treat patients on an outpatient basis at our EDs, even when we may be on diversion.”

Wellstar Health System Statement: 

"Across Atlanta, we are currently experiencing a rise in the need for acute care capacity. 

While Wellstar Atlanta Medical Center (AMC) and AMC South’s ICUs are now at full capacity due to an influx of patients – including patients presenting with COVID-19 symptoms - we are working to actively manage capacity across our system and still have a limited number of staffed ICU beds available within our hospitals at this time. We continue to monitor and actively manage our staffing levels, capacity, and supply chain across our system to ensure we have adequate, continued access to beds, equipment, and personnel needed to care for patients. 

We urge the public to continue following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), including social distancing, wearing masks, hand-hygiene and self-care. These guidelines will continue to be extremely important tools to help stop community spread of COVID-19 until a solution and/or vaccine has been identified and distributed across the country."


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