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Dr. Waldrum joins other community leaders at Virtual Town Hall

April 17, 2020 posted by Vidant Health News

It takes a community working together to fight a pandemic. On Thursday, Vidant Health CEO Dr. Michael Waldrum joined federal, state and local officials for a Virtual Town Hall to discuss the continued effort to protect communities from COVID-19.

Dr. Waldrum began the night with a recognition of the community support received, from both elected officials and citizens at large.

“The hard thing is, we’ve never been here before,” Dr. Waldrum said. “What I constantly hear is this beautiful story of ‘What can we do?’ and this outpouring of support for our health care workers and for all of us that are on the front lines taking care of this great region of eastern North Carolina.”

The conversation, hosted by North Carolina Rep. Kandie Smith, was open to the public. One viewer asked about the availability for drive-up testing for COVID-19.

Testing options

Drive-up testing is available in eastern North Carolina, but it takes days to receive results from these tests. Dr. Waldrum stressed the need for community members to treat themselves as if they have the virus, especially if they think they may have it. This means staying home and practicing social distancing.

Vidant has limited rapid testing available, which gives results in hours. These tests are currently being reserved for high-risk individuals who have a greater chance of coming to the hospital or those that may need a therapy change based on having the virus.

“We’re really excited about what Vidant has done with our partnership with ECU and Brody School of Medicine and building rapid testing capacity,” Dr. Waldrum said. “We have the largest testing capacity in eastern North Carolina. It’s rapidly growing – at this point we’re able to do 1,000 tests per week.”

The ability to test and get results quickly is the key to resuming normal activities in our communities and turning our economy back on. Right now, Vidant and the Brody School of Medicine are taking steps to make that a possibility.

Cost of testing

A follow-up question regarding the cost of testing was raised and Dr. Waldrum thanked the elected officials who made it possible for the public to be tested for free. While a cost will be incurred by the hospital, the public will not see a bill for the test itself.

Dr. Waldrum said the virus has put a magnifying glass on the challenges we face in the East and the mission of Vidant to improve the health and well-being of eastern North Carolina. He also said creating capacity within Vidant Hospitals has been a focus since before COVID-19 arrived in the state.

Creating capacity

“The other big question that we get is do you have capacity – can you take care of the people that need care,” Dr. Waldrum said. “And so there’s a lot of fear around that and we can talk about the issues of what goes into creating capacity but as we know we live in this wonderful region of eastern North Carolina but we started in a distressed region and an underserved region that is primarily rural with a high burden of disease so we’re mounting this historic response on that foundation.”

The action taken by local and state officials to issue stay at home orders has helped create the capacity needed to treat patients in the East. Flatten the curve was discussed often and Dr. Waldrum said the steps taken have worked to keep the surge of COVID-19 patients down. But the fight is not over.

Economic impact

Lee Lilley, director of legislative affairs for North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, was asked about the timeline for turning the economy back on and when the stay at home order would be lifted. He said Gov. Cooper was working closely with health officials to determine the next steps. There was no timeframe available Thursday evening, but he said it would be less like turning on a light switch and more like using a dimmer.

“If we took everything off at once, we know from our modeling we would put our hospitals and our front line health care workers in great jeopardy because we would likely overwhelm the system with sick people,” Lilley said. “We’re going to have to watch it as it goes.”

Rep. Kandie Smith said the goal of the Virtual Town Hall was to keep the public informed and continue the important dialogue happening among community leaders.

“Thank you so much to everyone who participated tonight – you guys are essential,” Rep. Smith said. “I know people in the community had a lot of questions and we want to make sure that we dispel as many myths that we can and get reliable information out. That’s what you all have done.”

Watch the full Virtual Town Hall

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