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'Weariness and, frankly, despair:' Braselton hospital president speaks of COVID-19 impact on staff

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In visiting medical units at Northeast Georgia Medical Center Braselton, president Anthony Williamson has seen the devastating effects of COVID-19 on not just the community but doctors and nurses providing care at the South Hall hospital.

“You can just see the sense of weariness and, frankly, despair in having to care for this population, and it seems like it’s not ending,” Williamson said during a Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce virtual forum Tuesday, Jan. 26.

“The high rate of deaths really takes an impact on them as they’re providing care. It’s just been something that they’ve really been struggling with.”

Williamson said staff also has struggled with public awareness “as to what we’re dealing with,” but the community has been generous in food donations and notes of support. He showed several pictures of community groups, including churches and subdivisions, bringing food and other items to the hospital.

“All of this food is getting out to our team members, and they just really love it,” he said. “They feel the community is behind them.”

Williamson also shared some virus data during his presentation, including numbers of cases and deaths throughout the Northeast Georgia Health System. As of Tuesday, the total number of deaths was 764. There were 71 patients at the Braselton campus of a total 281 in the system. The system, and Braselton campus, hit record highs of  COVID-19 patients after Christmas and have just recently started to see numbers decline.

“At Braselton … about two weeks ago, we had 13 deaths in the ICU, and that really was a difficult thing for the team,” he said. 

The pandemic “is still very palpable right now,” Williamson said. “Hopefully, we’re beginning to see the light (of fewer cases), but we know the reality is we have to continue to be safe, we have to continue to wear our masks and we have to get the vaccination out.”