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Central Georgia's Leading Local News: Weather, Traffic, Sports, and more | Macon, Georgia | 13WMAZ.com

Navicent Health releasing few details on COVID-19 impact or test numbers

Leaders there wouldn't say how many people they've tested or how many have returned positive results

MACON, Ga. — Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital in Albany is getting slammed. More than 120 hospitalized patients are being treated for confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 there. Sixteen patients have died.

We know all of that because Phoebe Putney Health System voluntarily updates the public with daily COVID-19 statistics.

Central Georgia's largest hospital system, Navicent Health, has taken a much less transparent approach.

After several individual attempts to get basic questions answered were rejected by the hospital, 13WMAZ and its partners through the Center for Collaborative Journalism made a joint request.

Together 13WMAZ, the Telegraph, and GPB Macon asked the Medical Center, Navicent Health to release basic numbers about how the COVID-19 outbreak is affecting the hospital and how they're responding.

We asked for the number of people tested for coronavirus at the hospital, how many tested positive, and how many are hospitalized.

We made that request as hospitals across the country report that they are overwhelmed by the COVID-19 crisis and running short of vital supplies.

Our full list of questions is copied below. The ones that were not answered are in bold.

  • The number of people tested for coronavirus by Navicent.
  • Total positive results from Navicent tests.
  • Total positive inpatients at Navicent.
  • Total positive outpatients tested by Navicent.
  • Total negative results of Navicent tests.
  • Total Navicent inpatients awaiting results.
  • Total Navicent patients awaiting results at home.
  • Total pending results of Navicent tests.

Also

  • The number of available local ICU beds vs. the number of total local ICU beds.
  • What elective surgeries are being performed at Navicent? Why? How many?
  • Where are overflow care areas being prepared?
  • When and where can we expect auxiliary testing sites?

We asked these questions because these are the ones many viewers have asked us. Of the dozen questions we asked, Navicent answered just three.

Hospital leaders would not tell you how many patients in their care have been tested.

They wouldn't tell you how many of those tests came back positive or negative. 

They wouldn't tell you how many patients are hospitalized with COVID-19. 

They wouldn't tell you how many people are still waiting for test results.

"We are committed to protecting the privacy of all patients who have been tested for COVID-19, whether or not the test results are positive," a release from Navicent Health spokesperson Megan Allen said. "As these patients recover and return to society, we want to ensure they are not stigmatized."

Federal privacy law does not prevent hospitals from releasing numbers on various procedures or reportable diseases -- just as law enforcement agencies release totals of rapes or other crimes without identifying the victims.

And Navicent's release doesn't explain how releasing statistics on the virus outbreak would stigmatize unidentified patients.

13WMAZ and its partners did not request any patient-identification information.

Navicent's refusal to release testing data also contradicts the approaches of Coliseum Health, Fairview Park Hospital, and Phoebe Putney Health System.

Click here to see Coliseum's answers.

Click here to see Fairview Park's answers.

Each of those facilities released the number of people whose tests have come back positive, and the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19.

Fairview Park and Phoebe Putney also released the total number of people who they tested for COVID-19.

Phoebe Putney continues to release even more detailed information.

Navicent also refused to say when or where auxiliary COVID-19 testing sites would be established.

The health system did say "we have over 100 ICU beds available in the Navicent Health system."

The release also addressed vital supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) health care providers use to limit their exposure to the virus while treating patients.

"Navicent Health has the bed capacity, staffing and supplies, including Personal Protective Equipment needed to care for the communities we serve," the release said.

But it's unclear what that statements means: Navicent did not provide any actual numbers or estimates of their current supply levels and how long they can be expected to last.

As for elective surgeries, Navicent Health says some are being postponed. "Case-by-case decisions are being made by our physicians," the release said. "They are best able to determine any risk posed by delaying surgery for an open-ended, unknown amount of time. The goal is to balance the short and long-term health of our patients while preserving personal protective equipment (PPE) and other supplies for a possible surge of COVID-19 patients."

The full request sent by 13WMAZ and our partners to Navicent Health is copied, in full, below.

Megan,

We four newsrooms, WMAZ, The Telegraph, GPB Macon and the Center for Collaborative Journalism, are writing to ask for the following information about COVID-19 in our community. We believe that this information, routinely shared by hospitals in other Georgia communities, is important and necessary for our community as it continues to make choices about how to stay safe throughout our local version of a global pandemic.

We are requesting daily updates of the following:

  • The number of people tested for coronavirus by Navicent.
  • Total positive results from Navicent tests.
  • Total positive inpatients at Navicent.
  • Total positive outpatients tested by Navicent.
  • Total negative results of Navicent tests.
  • Total Navicent inpatients awaiting results.
  • Total Navicent patients awaiting results at home.
  • Total pending results of Navicent tests.

Also

  • The number of available local ICU beds vs. the number of total local ICU beds.
  • What elective surgeries are being performed at Navicent? Why? How many?
  • Where are overflow care areas being prepared?
  • When and where can we expect auxiliary testing sites?

And eventually, how many people in Navicent care have died from COVID-19?

Thank you,

Grant Blankenship/GPB

Josephine Bennett/GPB

Lorra Lynch-Jones/WMAZ

Zach Merchant/WMAZ

Caleb Slinkard/The Telegraph

Liz Fabian/Center for Collaborative Journalism

Navicent Health's full response is below.

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FACTS NOT FEAR | At 13WMAZ, we’re focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the coronavirus. To see our full coverage, visit our site section here: www.13wmaz.com/Coronavirus.

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