“We are here to serve everybody in our community,” said Candler County Hospital CEO Michael Purvis on Tuesday evening. Purvis’s comments came following a misstatement from Mayor Ed Boyd during Tuesday’s called meeting in which the mayor said that the hospital may refuse treatment of individuals over 80 if a COVID-19 outbreak occurred locally.

“I spoke to the Mayor to make sure he understood my comment on Friday,” Purvis said. “I was saying that if we followed social distancing and things such as curbside dining for 15 days, we could mitigate this outbreak, and then I referenced that in Italy it has gotten so bad that they have had to quit caring for anyone over 80 years of age. Those people have been asked to stay home. I did not say that would ever happen here.

“Our hospital has to meet state and federal regulations and comply with the EMTALA law, which means that we treat everyone who comes through our ER,” Purvis said, “and we will continue to do just that for our citizens.”

“During today’s Council Meeting, I made a reference to information about the treatment at Candler County Hospital of persons 80 years of age or older,” said Mayor Ed Boyd. “In my conversation with the hospital administrator, I misunderstood what he said. That conversation involved a worst case scenario such as what is going on in Italy right now.

“In no way did I mean to imply that 80 year olds would not be treated at Candler County Hospital. That is not the case and that is not the message I wish to convey,” Boyd said. “I want to apologize to the medical community, Candler County Hospital and the citizens for making a misleading statement.”

Candler County Hospital Update

Earlier today, Candler County Hospital released an update for the local community regarding operations at the hospital and doctor’s office. That release, in its entirety, is below: 

At Candler County Hospital we strive to be the critical access hospital of choice for our patients and our community.  In order to provide a safe, disinfected environment during the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak we are monitoring federal, state and local news of potential community spread.  

A reliable tool that we are using is the Coronavirus Map of cases confirmed in Georgia, at https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=1Ak-caafZXmt9cVbKA48vWRXgpmVlUu4F&ll=31.849461813176187%2C-82.82239363504061&z=7.  This map is refreshed each day at noon and is updated by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).  While the outbreak has been more active in larger populated counties in Georgia, we have been blessed with Spring-like temperatures, and have benefited from local community members adhering as much as possible to social distancing.

Dr. Loy “Chip” Cowart suggests that we wash our hands for at least 20 seconds with hot water and antibacterial soap while reciting the Happy Birthday song twice (to know how long we should be washing our hands) and to cough into our sleeves or tissue if available in order to contain droplets from entering the air.  Soap and water are the best means to clean hands; however, you may use alcohol-based hand sanitizer in the absence of soap and water, please follow manufacturer’s recommendation for use.  Disinfectant wipes are a good way to keep most surfaces that we touch routinely disinfected throughout the day.  Common brands that folks have used are bleach and Lysol wipes.  Dr. J. Dorsey Smith stresses, “remember to avoid touching your face within the T-zone, eyes, nose, forehead and mouth.  If you must pick up medications and supplies, try to distance yourself by 3-6 feet with fellow shoppers.  The best advice is to stock up on routine medications, staple foods, supplies and stay home for the next 90 days.”

The CDC has recently asked that events of 10 or more people be cancelled for at least the next 90 days.  Dr. Cowart expands, “we continue to take actions to help mitigate the spread of the novel COVID-19, at Candler Medical Group, we ask if you suspect the Coronavirus to call 912-685-5715, and let the staff know.  We will guide each patient by the signs and symptoms described.  Candler Medical Group now has a well entrance and an acutely ill entrance.  For all well visits, we ask our patients to continue to use the main entrance as normal at Candler Medical Group. 

For acutely ill patients, with symptoms including loss of taste, smell, appetite, cough, fever greater than 100.4F, we ask that you call and park in the front parking lot.  We will have medical providers come to your car to provide care during the COVID-19 outbreak.  Together we will ensure that we are able to provide the best care to keep you and your family as safe as possible during these historic, unprecedented times.  We are on Day 7 of President’s Donald J. Trump’s 15-day plan to observe social distancing and staying home as much as possible in order to damper the spread and keep the sick patients at a manageable level for our local hospital.  May God continue to bless our wonderful community and our frontline healthcare providers as we continue to wage the war against the Coronavirus.

We encourage our community to remain vigilant, calm and to take action based on facts and news releases from evidence-based research, such as federal, state and local law and medical enforcement agencies such as the Department of Public Health, Centers for Disease Control and the Governor’s Office.  Dr. Chad Slaughter, Candler County Hospital Emergency Room Medical Director states, “the symptoms for 80% of our population may be mild, such as fever, respiratory symptoms to include dry cough and shortness of breath.  The folks that are 55 and older with underlying medical issues are at greatest risk for hospitalization and more serious medical conditions.”  For Candler County Hospital to remain safe during the COVID-19 outbreak, we are restricting entrance to the hospital for outpatient procedures and visitors Monday-Friday, 6:00AM-5:00PM through the radiology entrance located off of Katherine Street. All other patients are restricted to the Emergency Room entrance.  We have enacted a no visitor policy unless clinically approved by the attending physician.  If you are approved to visit, all visitors will have to complete a wellness screen and will be given approved times to visit and will be restricted to the room or department in which the patient is in.

Linda Coleman, Chief Nursing Officer laments, “by stepping up our surveillance practices and restricting entrance into the hospital, we will be better able to contain patients exhibiting symptoms that could be COVID-19 and reducing the risk of exposure.  We ask that each patient restrict visitors and inform families of the unique challenge of community spread as it relates to COVID-19, our number one goal is the ongoing safety of our patients, staff and community members.”  Dr. Slaughter suggests anyone experiencing symptoms that may be severe to contact the Emergency Room at 912-685-1726, if you cannot call, but seek medical attention at the hospital we ask that you go ahead and place a mask on the infected individual and let the staff know upon entrance of your condition.  If we all work together, we will be able to reduce the community spread and number of infected folks significantly, the best way to handle each person’s risk is to keep your hands clean and to socially distance ourselves until the threat has passed.”

Michael Purvis, Chief Executive Officer, Candler County Hospital summarizes, “we have met with local stakeholders on the developments of COVID-19.  Once we see the disease progress, we may have to enact more stringent policies to keep our community, patients and staff safe.  We aim to be the community’s choice for healthcare services when crisis hits.  Our team has practiced and are prepared to care for our community no matter the challenge, as long as we all stay calm and take necessary precautions, we feel that Metter and Candler County may overcome this active virus with planned, evidenced-based care.  We are not ruling out drive through testing and patient care should Candler County see a sharp rise in infected patients.  At this time, we have no suspected or confirmed patients in Metter or Candler County, with the closest county reporting a confirmed case being Tattnall County, Georgia, which is 33 miles away.”  Brian Wood, Hospital Authority of Candler County Chairman suggests “through increased surveillance, our team is committed to providing the safest environment for healthcare services at Candler County Hospital with confidence, dignity and excellence.  Through a coordinated effort with local, State and Federal officials we can safely manage the spread and reduce the active cases in our region.  We appreciate the community’s cooperation and support during this unique time in our Nation’s history.” 

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