County employees in Gordon County, Georgia, will soon have the opportunity to lend a hand at AdventHealth Gordon, a move that will provide much-needed relief at a hospital that has been overburdened by COVID-19 patients and hospitalizations for months.
The Gordon County Board of Commissioners is nearing an agreement that will allow county employees to assist during shifts at AdventHealth Gordon hospital when not working in their day-to-day jobs. County Administrator Jim Ledbetter said it will go into effect soon.
Ledbetter said a number of firefighters and law enforcement personnel already have expressed interest in doing so. Anyone who does volunteer to take on a few extra hours will be paid for their time and must be vaccinated prior to their first shift.
"With the hospital being licensed for 69 patients and having more than 100, the labor force is stretched pretty thin and staff are pretty tired. The hospital came to us for help and we decided to do what we can," Ledbetter said. "We polled our firefighters and many of them said they are interested in doing this. Likewise, I spoke with the sheriff and was told there was interest there too. We always want those folks to be safe and to be at their best when they come back to us, so we are requiring that everyone who volunteers at the hospital get vaccinated. We're also requiring that they have at least 12 hours to rest between shifts working for us and the hospital."
When county employees decide to work at the hospital, Ledbetter said, they will carry out all duties under the supervision and direction of AdventHealth Gordon's nurses and doctors.
For the most part, these duties will include things like stocking or making sure visitors to the hospitals are wearing masks before they come inside. Keeping people wearing their masks inside has been particularly difficult lately, Ledbetter said, which is why the county first looked to firefighters and law enforcement as potential volunteers.
"They would help with security. People's nerves have been frayed with the pandemic and they don't always want to mask. Some people have been getting testy about that, so that's something our police could help with that would take a lot of stress off hospital staff," he said.
Any county employee who takes a shift at the hospital but decides they are uncomfortable carrying out an assigned duty can notify their supervisor to be assigned another task.
"They would not be exercising any medical care not under the supervision of a nurse or doctor. They would only do what they were directly instructed to do. If they're not comfortable with whatever that is, they can opt out," Ledbetter said. "There will be no adverse consequences for employees who choose not to participate."
Though county employees working at AdventHealth Gordon are called 'volunteers' because the work is not required, Ledbetter said, they will be paid for their time in full by the hospital. This includes any worker's compensation cases that may arise, as well as federal payroll contributions.
"Absolutely no Gordon County taxpayer dollars will be used to fund the venture," he said. "Employees will continue to be paid through the county payroll, but the hospital will reimburse that 100%."
On Thursday, Ledbetter confirmed there were 114 patients hospitalized at AdventHealth Gordon. Of those, 61 were COVID-positive, 24 were in critical condition and 18 were on ventilators. Fifteen patients, he said, were in the emergency room waiting to be moved into private rooms.
About 32% of Gordon County residents were fully vaccinated as of Thursday, according to the Department of Public Health, and 38% had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. The percentage of fully vaccinated residents statewide is 45%.
For information on how to get vaccinated in North Georgia, visit nghd.org or nwgapublichealth.org. Contacts for other COVID-19 vaccine providers in the area are available at vaccines.gov.
Contact Kelcey Caulder at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6327. Follow her on Twitter @kelceycaulder.