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Northeast Georgia Medical Center opens 20-bed mobile COVID-19 unit as cases rise
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Nurse Manager Betsy Ross inspects a patient room Monday, July 20, 2020, inside the mobile COVID-19 unit at the Northeast Georgia Medical Center. The hospital's new mobile unit is getting set to receive patients. - photo by Scott Rogers

Northeast Georgia Medical Center in Gainesville opened its new mobile medical unit Tuesday, July 21, as COVID-19 patient numbers with the Northeast Georgia Health System have doubled in recent weeks. 

The 20-bed unit, situated in a gravel parking lot near the North Tower, will be used to treat COVID-19 patients, freeing up space in the main hospital building.  

The unit was provided by the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency, a state agency that has also supplied similar units for hospitals in Albany, Rome and Macon. 

Patients moved in Tuesday following a building inspection by the hospital’s plant operations and infection control and prevention teams. 

The unit, which will be a traditional medical space rather than intensive care unit, opens as the health system experiences an increase in COVID-19 patients. On Monday, July 20, the system was treating 127 COVID-19 patients at its facilities. A month ago, on June 20, that number was 67 patients. Since the pandemic began, the health system has treated 1,249 patients and sent them home, while 138 have died, according to data on the NGHS website.  

The system’s peak was on April 29, when it was treating 159 COVID-19 patients. 

Nurse Manager Betsy Ross has worked at NGMC for 29 years, and this is her first time working in a mobile unit.  

“Working here during a pandemic has been an adjustment for everybody here at the hospital. Some people have been taken off of their home units and had to adjust and work in different areas of the hospital where needed,” Ross said.  

Her unit was a pulmonary oncology medical unit before the pandemic. With the first surge of COVID-19, it became a medical intensive care unit. 

About 50 staff have been assigned to the mobile unit, and each shift will have about 10 employees, Ross said.  

With the opening of the unit, NGMC Gainesville will have 577 beds, including 101 intensive care unit beds and 423 medical surgical beds, according to Chief Nursing Officer Brenda Simpson. Eight critical care nurses have arrived from Jackson Healthcare, a Georgia-based company that helps health systems with staffing needs. The state has partnered with Jackson Healthcare to help hospitals treat COVID-19 patients.    

Simpson said the opening of the unit was delayed while NGMC worked with state contractors to address condensation issues at the space. The opening has been delayed by about two months.