Mission Health to resume elective services within 10 days

Mission Hospital campus
HEROIC EFFORTS: Six staff members at Mission Hospital in Asheville have tested positive for COVID-19. As of May 27, no additional cases related to the staff cases were identified. Photo by Cindy Kunst

As local and state officials wrestle with how to roll back business restrictions designed to curb COVID-19, Mission Health is planning to bring its own operations a step closer to the pre-pandemic normal. In an April 27 press release, the health system announced plans to “begin phasing back in certain services and procedures that were temporarily suspended due to COVID-19” within the next 10 days.

Cancer therapies, joint replacements and other elective procedures that had been postponed due to the initial COVID-19 response will be the first to return. Dr. William Hathaway, Mission’s chief medical officer, said the system would take “a phased approach” to reinstituting other services, in line with the strategy for economic reopening proposed by Gov. Roy Cooper.

The release quoted Brownie Newman, chair of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners, as supportive of Mission’s decision. “Thanks to the good work of residents adhering to our Stay Home, Stay Safe policy, the risk of exceeding the capacity at Mission Hospital to care for all patients is now low,” Newman said. “County health officials are comfortable with Mission performing important medical procedures that had been placed on hold.”

Since North Carolina’s first confirmed case of COVID-19 was announced on March 3, the Mission system has treated just over 20 inpatients for the disease, according to the release. As of the afternoon of April 27, 54 confirmed COVID-19 cases had been reported in Buncombe County, resulting in 3 deaths.

Hiring begins to double state contact tracing capacity

The second of the three pillars supporting Cooper’s COVID-19 strategy — testing, tracing and trends — will be substantially strengthened over the coming month. Dr. Mandy Cohen, North Carolina’s secretary of health and human services, announced a new collaborative to double the state’s contract tracing workforce from 250 to 500 by the end of May at an April 27 press conference.

Beginning immediately, Cohen said, Community Care of North Carolina and the state’s area health education centers would hire new employees to follow up with COVID-19 patients and determine other people with whom they had been in close contact. While roughly 70% of local health departments said they already had adequate tracing capacity, Cohen noted, additional support is needed in areas with higher case volumes.

Those interested working for the Carolina Community Tracing Collaborative can apply online. Cohen said preference would be given to applicants who are currently unemployed, have previous community engagement experience and are living in the areas they will serve.

In other news

  • At an April 27 webinar hosted by the N.C. Chamber, state Sen. Chuck Edwards, R-Henderson, criticized Cooper’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis, calling the Democratic governor’s stay-at-home order “an overreaction.” Edwards also said that Cooper’s three-phase plan to reopen the state failed to offer any certainty for businesses that have been hard hit by the restrictions.
  • Asheville City Council will hold a special meeting at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, April 28, to consider a resolution that would give City Manager Debra Campbell the authority to apply for Federal Emergency Management Agency funding. As outlined in a staff report available before the meeting, the move would allow “potential recovery of costs associated with the COVID-19 declared disaster.”
  • Visit Black Mountain launched a “Black Mountain Strong” T-shirt fundraiser to help local businesses impacted by COVID-19. Half of each $20 purchase is allocated to a locally owned Black Mountain business such as Seven Sisters Gallery or Town Hardware.
  • The YMCA of Western North Carolina has partnered with Wicked Weed Brewing, Cultura restaurant and other local food businesses to expand its free meal delivery program. Starting this week, the YMCA and Food Connection will deliver 5,000 meals to those in need throughout the Asheville area.

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About Daniel Walton
Daniel Walton is the former news editor of Mountain Xpress. His work has also appeared in Sierra, The Guardian, and Civil Eats, among other national and regional publications. Follow me @DanielWWalton

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