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Watauga Medical Center Continuing Preparations for Dealing with Potential COVID-19 Patients

By Nathan Ham

Appalachian Regional Healthcare Systems has been planning ahead for events that nobody wants to see in the High Country.

Watauga Medical Center has now opened a new isolation unit to deal with any positive COVID-19 patients that may need hospital care.

“We have 20 additional beds to deal with isolating COVID-19 patients. We were able to do that within just a few days. The work that went around putting that together was nothing short of miraculous,” said Rob Hudspeth, Sr. Vice President for System Advancement at Appalachian Regional Healthcare System.

The new unit is in what used to be used as the Sleep Lab and is now known as the Short Stay Unit and has been established to provide ICU-level care. Some of the things that went into making this happen included creating negative pressure rooms and rechanneling HVAC pipes as necessary. All of that was completed in just a few days according to ARHS.

All ARHS crash carts are now equipped with N95 respirators, one small size and one regular size should a patient need to be intubated.

Hudspeth added that teams have also been preparing for what to do at Cannon Memorial Hospital should any COVID-19 tests return positive results for patients in Avery County.

“There are positives that come out of things like this. We’ve learned that we can communicate from home and remotely without fear and danger of infecting each other. We’ve learned about our supply chain and learned about some of our workflows. We’ve learned that when the government needs to be responsive, they can,” says Hudspeth.

As of now, there are no shortages of needed medical supplies at Watauga Medical Center or Cannon Memorial Hospital.