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'We went through 6 months of supplies in just a little over 7 days': Albany hospital CEO offers COVID-19 warning to others

6 people have died there

ALBANY, Ga. — It was a dire warning from the hospital system leader.

Albany's Phoebe Putney Health System CEO Scott Steiner says their months-long supply stockpile is running out.

"We went through 6 months of supplies in a just little over 7 days," he said.

"Phoebe Putney is a pretty large system in southwest Georgia, the largest, 8th largest in the state, and we feel like we were pretty well prepared, thinking about China and what they were going through," he continued. "We ordered a ton of supplies and hoping we'd never have to use them, thinking a small urban rural market wouldn't be hit very hard, and, well, we were wrong."

Phoebe Putney Health System is at the center of one of Georgia's hottest COVID-19 hot zones. 

He says the hospital currently has more than 100 inpatients with either positive or presumed-positive cases.

Hundreds more who are not currently hospitalized are awaiting test results, according to a hospital news release from this weekend.

6 people have died there.

"Our systems are definitely stressed," said Steiner.

Steiner says his hospital ordered what would usually be 6 months of protective gear, like N95 respirator masks. 

The surge of COVID-19 patients at the hospital forced them to burn through most of that supply in a week.

"Normally, we'd have 5 to 8 people in isolation" battling various illnesses," he said. "We've got almost 20 times that number today."

That surge has the hospital system nearing the end of their supplies.

"We've got about 5, 5-and-a-half days of N95 masks left at our current burn rate," Steiner said. "We're burning more than 2,500 a day."

Replacing them, he says, is nearly impossible.

"You can't find them. All our normal sources that we normally (go to) are out and they basically have said, 'we don't know and we don't think we will have any in in the near future,'" he said.

Instead, Phoebe Putney is now trying to extend the lives of the protective gear they still do have, with home-sewn covers for the N95 masks that will hopefully allow doctors and nurses to safely use the masks more than once.

It's a measure the hospital's own website says is only to be used during a "severe shortage."

Still, Steiner stresses that his team is focused on the task at hand and ready to do whatever it takes to continue safely serving patients.

"Somebody asked me if we were fearful, I said, 'There is no fear in anybody's eyes or their faces here. We have determination,'" he said.

If you want to help sew masks for Phoebe Putney or another hospital, directions are on this website.

A Macon hospital is also helping out Phoebe-Putney out during this time.

Steiner says they're thankful for the Medical Center, Navicent Health for taking in a handful of COVID-19 patients.

Steiner says Navicent has a long history of working with them. Navicent has also taken in a few patients who do not have coronavirus, including pediatric patients in order to free up beds in Albany, according to Steiner.

He says instead of thinking of these people as COVID-19 patients, he says remember that they're mothers and fathers and family members that deserve care and treatment.

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