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Ballad Health describes COVID-19 surge, testing delays during media briefing

By Brittnee Nave
Star Correspondent
Ballad Health officials spoke on COVID-19 updates and testing delays during a media briefing on Wednesday.
There are now 70 in-house patients being treated within Ballad Health, the highest number it has been since the pandemic started. Among those patients, 18 are in the ICU and 13 are on ventilators. The average age range, though it spans across all age groups, remains at 60 years. 
“We are seeing people of all different ages who are in our COVID-19 units right now who have told us they feel if they’d worn a mask their outcome might have been different,” said Dr. Clay Eunnels, Chief Physician Executive. 
Jamie Swift, Infection Prevention Director, added that the current occupancy in facilities is at 88 percent. 
In addition to the current 70 patients Ballad has, there are a reported 30 patients under investigation or PUI. These individuals are awaiting results, meaning the current number of in-house patients could very likely rise.
On the surge in patients, Eric Deaton, Chief Operating Officer, expressed concern.
“You can see right now we are on the upper trajectory of very high numbers of inpatients,” he said. “It’s very disturbing. On June 21, we had 4 inpatients; today we have 70.”
To aid in the surge in cases, Ballad has come up with a plan that will allow an additional 150 beds by the end of the week. They are also developing plans to increase numbers of 200-250 additional beds as well.  
Along with beds, relocating staff to surge areas is also occurring. 
  • Healthcare providers from Hawkins and Hancock counties are being sent to aid in the surge in Kingsport.
  • Team members from Unicoi County Hospital are also prepared to trigger a temporary relocation of providers at Sycamore Shoals and JCMC. 
  • At Franklin Woods and Greenville Community Hospital, the ICU and PCU capacities have been reduced; staff is also temporarily relocating to JCMC.
  • Russell County Hospital and Smyth County Community Hospitals are temporarily discontinuing admissions to the ICU to free up resources for deployment at JMH and Bristol Regional. 
Along with the surge in cases comes a higher demand on national labs with testing. Swift explained that despite these longer wait times, patients will receive a call with their results and urged against calling the ER for the results. The wait time for results may take as long as 7-10 days at this time. Rapid testing has also been affected by higher demand.
The need for plasma donation from those who have tested positive and recovered from the virus is also still needed. Dr. Runnels explained that one donation can make a huge difference in the recovery of someone currently suffering from COVID. Antibodies present in the blood of people who have had the virus can help those critically ill. 
For more information from Ballad Health, you can go www.balladhealth.org. For information regarding blood or plasma donations, you can contact the Marsh Regional Blood Center at 423-282-7090.