‘The General’ stays course in pandemic
As Gov. Tate Reeves announced two weeks ago that he was ending the COVID-19 state of emergency, Neshoba General officials reflected on the past 20 months of the pandemic and what is next for the hospital.
“COVID-19 was an unprecedented medical event in the modern time and just like every other medical facility, we had to be proactive, creative and flexible to make it through,” said Dr. Andrew Dabbs, general surgeon at Neshoba General. “We were fortunate that we were in a strong financial position at the onset of the pandemic and our management team was very proactive to secure the resources we needed to safely care for the COVID patients.”
Scott Breazeale, assistant administrator at Neshoba General, said planning had been key to the hospital weathering the pandemic.
“Our emergency operations planner was on top of things early and we were able to obtain the supplies that were needed to ensure a safe environment of care for the patients and to ensure the safety of our care team,” Breazeale said.
The Neshoba General Hospital, Nursing Home and Clinics healthcare teams proved to be resilient, Breazeale said.
“There was no way to get comfortable with daily routines as care plans and protocols rapidly changed to meet the standards of care for the COVID-19 patients,” Breazeale said.
Having experienced two waves of the pandemic so far that stressed the healthcare system statewide, Breazeale said he hopes the worst of the pandemic is behind us.
“Currently, COVID-19 cases are low statewide and hopefully, we will not see another increase,” Breazeale said.
In announcing that he is ending the state of emergency, Reeves cited declining COVID-19 infection rates and increasing vaccination rates earlier this month.
“With more than 3,000,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine having been administered in Mississippi and with COVID-19 infections and resulting hospitalizations being effectively managed, it's time to end the State of Emergency,” Reeves said in making the announcement. “The additional eight-day extension will provide state agencies with ample time to prepare for the State of Emergency's termination.”
Although the state of emergency may be ending, that does not mean the pandemic is over, and hospital leaders said they are incorporating the lessons learned through the pandemic in planning for the community’s future healthcare needs.
“One thing that we learned is that proactive planning is the key to survival with any public health crisis,” Breazeale said. “Another lesson learned is there is no substitute for modern technology and that a viable internet network is much needed in our community.”
Breazeale said the hospital team learned to value alternate means of examinations.
“An alternative to traditional physician office visits, mainly telehealth, permitted us to continue serving our community,” Breazeale said. “Our Information Technology department worked diligently to resolve issues so that our healthcare providers could continue meeting the needs of the patients that we serve. The support our staff has received from Neshoba County and surrounding communities has been phenomenal.”
In the future, the hospital still has challenges to address, including reaching pre-pandemic financial stability, Breazeale said.
“Staffing in all departments throughout the facility is a major challenge,” Breazeale said. “The uncertainties of COVID-19 forced many out of healthcare early in the pandemic. The recent COVID-19 vaccine mandates by the federal government for healthcare workers has added to this challenge.”
In the coming months, Neshoba General CEO Lee McCall said the hospital plans to get back to basics.
“We will continue to implement our strategic plan and continuously evaluate opportunities to better serve the health and well-being of our community,” McCall said.