Mission Health resumes elective procedures, maintains visitor restrictions

Mission Hospital main entrance
COME ON IN: Dr. William Hathaway, chief medical officer for Mission Health, emphasized the system's safety for patients who had delayed seeking health care due to COVID-19. Photo by Cindy Kunst

As Buncombe County businesses continue to move in line with statewide reopening efforts, Mission Health announced the resumption of elective services, surgical procedures and imaging tests at all facilities. The move comes nearly two months after the system halted all elective procedures to ensure its hospitals had sufficient capacity for a potential influx of COVID-19 patients.

To date, 34 patients with COVID-19 have visited a Mission facility for treatment, said Dr. William Hathaway, the system’s chief medical officer, during a May 11 press conference. Two individuals with the coronavirus are currently receiving care at Mission, which he said has sufficient capacity of ventilators, personal protective equipment and intensive care beds.

Mission Hospital is still operating under Level 3 visitation restrictions, meaning no visitors are permitted on hospital floors. Exceptions are limited to pediatric care, end-of-life cases and labor and delivery. One visitor may accompany a patient to a surgical procedure but cannot stay overnight.

Across North Carolina, Hathaway said, emergency health care such as treatment for heart attacks and strokes has dropped 25% to 30% since the start of the pandemic. He encouraged anyone experiencing an emergency to seek care immediately.

“Safety has been, and always will be, our No. 1 priority for our patients and our staff,” Hathaway said. “The hospital is a safe place to receive care at this time.”

State officials work to expand testing availability

Roughly 6,000 COVID-19 tests are being processed in North Carolina each day, said Dr. Mandy Cohen, the state’s secretary of health and human services, during a May 8 press conference. As of that date, the state ranked 15th in the nation in total number of tests completed; North Carolina is the country’s ninth-largest state by population.

The state health department has secured some sample collection supplies from the federal government, including 300,000 swabs and 224,000 vials of viral transport media. Deliveries are expected weekly through June, Cohen explained, and will be distributed to local partners across the state.

Walmart and Walgreens have opened federally funded testing sites in Durham and Pitt counties, and Walmart and Harris Teeter will open additional sites in Bladen, Columbus, Cumberland, Edgecombe, Guilford, Hoke, Jackson and Wilkes counties later this month. The state is working with the federal government and corporate partners to expand testing sites across the state.

In other news

  • Buncombe County government and Western North Carolina Community Health Services are partnering to offer community-based COVID-19 testing. Free testing will be available at the Hillcrest Community Center on Tuesday, May 12, from 1-4 p.m., and at the Buncombe County Schools Central Office on Thursday, May 14, from 1-4 p.m.
  • Buncombe County Libraries will undergo a phased reopening beginning Monday, May 18. Book drops will open on that date, as will curbside service at the North Asheville, South Buncombe, Black Mountain and West Asheville branches. No fines will be charged during the reopening process.
  • The Blood Connection will offer free COVID-19 antibody testing to all donors beginning Monday, May 11. The antibody test will be included in the panel of blood work conducted prior to blood donation and will be available at all Blood Connection donation sites or mobile blood drives.
  • Buncombe County Schools announced virtual graduation ceremonies to celebrate the class of 2020. Schools will post a filmed graduation ceremony on their respective websites and will offer diploma pickup and photo opportunities. In-person class reunions will be planned when COVID-19 restrictions lift.

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About Molly Horak
Molly is a recent graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and writer for Mountain Xpress. Her work has appeared in the Citizen-Times, News and Observer and Charlotte Observer. Follow me @molly_horak

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