COVID-19: Coliseum releases test results as Macon hospitals resume procedures


Liz Fabian

Coliseum Medical Centers released results of COVID-19 testing since March 1 during a Chamber of Commerce webinar Friday morning.

A Greater Macon Chamber of Commerce virtual healthcare town hall Friday revealed some encouraging results from Coliseum Medical Centers COVID-19 testing.

Stephen J. Daugherty, CEO of Coliseum Health System, said since March 1 the hospital has tested 656 symptomatic patients from 39 counties. Only 130 of those people tested positive for the new coronavirus, which amounts to 80 percent negative results.

“I want to put a little positive in here about this,” he said, as Daugherty and health executives from Navicent Health and Coliseum Northside gave a status report on the teleconference, which is being posted on the chamber’s Facebook page.

Navicent’s president of hospitals and clinics, Dr. Tom Oliver, publicly thanked Daugherty for letting their collective employees know that during this global pandemic the hospitals are “not competitors but collaborators.”

HCA’s two hospitals, Navicent and Houston Healthcare have been sharing information since the health crisis began, they said.

Oliver used his portion of the webinar not to share hospital specific information but general techniques on how to prevent infection such as the oft-mentioned hand-washing, disinfecting and social distancing.

He talked about worldwide indicators that COVID-19 is a “little more infectious than the average flu, but unfortunately more deadly.”

While the typical flu has a mortality rate of about 0.1 percent worldwide, this deadly virus kills up to 5 percent, he said.

“As we test more people, we might see it drop,” Oliver said.

So far, doctors are seeing about half of the COVID-19 positive cases show no symptoms or very minor symptoms, he said. Oliver said about 20 percent of cases require hospitalization and up to 5 percent will need the ICU or ventilator.

Research scientists show that with highly infectious measles, one person can spread measles to an average of 30 people, he said. That compares with a rate of seasonal flu spreading to 1 to 2 people and COVID-19 being spread to 2 to 3 other people, on average, he said.

Greg Caples, CEO of Charter Northside Hospital, said that as the community begins to make decisions about resuming more normal activity, his hospital is focused on “creating both physical and psychological safety” to give patients peace of mind that disease mitigating practices are in place.

Daugherty wants to reassure the public that Coliseum is treating COVID-19 patients in a separate area of the hospital and people should not be deterred from seeking treatment for other conditions.

“They should not delay care,” Daugherty said. “Our hospitals are safe. We have protective measures in place.”

Oliver pointed out that a vaccine could be a year away or more.

“We’ve been trying for 30 years to develop a vaccine for HIV,” Oliver said.

Navicent is beginning to resume elective surgery, mammography and other procedures, he said.

GEMA and the Macon-Bibb County Emergency Management Agency have erected 24 additional beds, if needed on Pine Street, but Navicent Health has refused to provide the media with the number of COVID-19 patients they are treating.

Oliver also praised the way community partners have helped Navicent navigate this pandemic by providing food, personal protective equipment and Angel Flight Soars pilots who fly test specimens to out-of-state labs.

Looking for a “silver lining” to COVID-19, Oliver mentioned that hospitals across the country are seeing a 50 percent reduction in hospital acquired infections, like MRSA.

“I think we are going to come out of this stronger as a healthcare system and we will have learned a lot of lessons,” Oliver said.

Chamber President Yvonne Williams expressed the community’s appreciation for the thousands of local healthcare workers who are on the front lines of fighting the deadly virus.

Caples shared the story of a COVID-19 positive patient transferred to Coliseum Northside from miles away.

The woman was scared and felt alone with out-of-town family members prevented from visiting.

Staff stepped up and treated her like family, she told Caples.

“I have been gratified to hear how our staff has been responding to patient needs without their loved ones,” Caples said.

In closing remarks, Oliver said: “This pandemic is a marathon and it’s not a sprint. This virus is going to be with us a considerable amount of time, like the flu.”

Contact Civic Reporting Senior Fellow Liz Fabian at 478-301-2976 or [email protected]