Front-line doctors helping treat Gallatin nursing home COVID-19 patients speak out

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SUMNER COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) — Sumner County is one of Tennessee’s hardest-hit counties in the COVID-19 crisis with one-fourth of the area’s cases from a single nursing home where 12 people have since died.

Thursday afternoon, News 2 heard directly from two front-line physicians, faced to treat nearly 100 patients from that same nursing home in just a few days.

Dr. Michelle Walther and Dr. Zac Ramsey of Sumner Regional Medical Center shared their stories as two physicians in Tennessee’s first hospital to experience the consequences of unmitigated COVID-19 spread.

The weekend of March 27, close to 90 patients from the Gallatin Center for Rehabilitation and Healing were brought to Sumner Regional Medical Center in waves, both by ambulance and bus.

“There is an unsettling factor when you’re not sure how much and what exactly is about to roll through the door. With COVID-19, we’re seeing a very large range of symptoms in patients. You could be close to asymptomatic, you could have minor cold symptoms all the way to respiratory distress requiring oxygenation and affecting a patient’s mental status and requiring intimation and a ventilator,” said Dr. Ramsey.

Dr. Ramsey says he and his team learned lessons from U.S epicenters like New York. “With excellent preparation, our hospital did a great job managing it.”

“Our hospital was well prepared,” Dr. Ramsey said, “We’ve been preparing for weeks or months for a surge of patients. We weren’t sure when or where it was going to come but our nurses and staff had excellent attitudes and have been fantastic at doing their job to take care of patients the best way possible.”​

When asked if patients got to them too late, the doctors replied saying that wasn’t their call.

“Our job as emergency room physicians is to take care of whoever is brought to us, we don’t make the decision of who comes in but we’re always ready to take care of anyone in our emergency room department,” said Dr. Walther.

Dr. Aaron Milstone, a pulmonary specialist who is treating COVID-19 patients closed the meeting with a message for Tennesseans, “Our Stay-at-Home Order is working. To prevent more hospitals and healthcare workers from being over-run and experiencing what these doctors and their patients experienced at Sumner Regional Medical Center, it is important everyone remains committed to the Stay-at-Home Order until the medical community says it is safe to lift. Right now, it is saving lives.”

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