WVU Medicine chief says COVID-19 patient count at ‘manageable level”

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The president and CEO of the largest health care system in West Virginia said Friday COVID-19 patient levels are at a manageable level.

Albert Wright
Photo/WVU Medicine

“We’ve got about 25 patients across seven hospitals in our system,” WVU Medicine’s Albert Wright said during a Friday appearance on MetroNews “Talkline.” “We’re actually down from where we were a couple of weeks ago after we saw a surge here in Morgantown, we were up to about 19 or 20 patients in Morgantown and we’re to about 10 today.”

WVU Medicine operates 19 hospitals across West Virginia and employs more than 16,000 people.

Early in the pandemic business at the hospital system fell by about 45 percent leading to pay cuts, furloughs and other cost control measures. Wright said six months into the pandemic, elective surgeries have partially returned, but have not reached pre-pandemic levels and the much anticipated surge has not hit yet.

Wright attributes the lack of a surge to clearly communicating guidelines and getting cooperation from the public.

“If we hadn’t started to use masks, started to do some of the shutdowns we had done at that time we could have seen a surge,” Wright said. “So, I actually think one of the reasons we haven’t had a surge is because we’ve done the right things.”

WVU Medicine, along with many other hospital in West Virginia, began to restart elective procedures in May and have steadily continue to expand.

“The hospitals in the state are now really back to humming at a normal pace, we keep an eye on things and encourage appropriate behavior but we still have a lot of in-patient capacity, and we learned during that shutdown process that if we ever need to create capacity, we know how to do that,” Wright said.

The hospital system has worked through the PPE shortage, testing challenges and treating COVID patients while keeping the staff safe.

“Caregivers are comfortable taking care of these patients and in fact our infection rate from people getting sick at work is next to nothing,” Wright said. “Now we’ve had employees get sick from community spread like anyone else because we’re all party of this.”

Since March, medical professionals have learned new ways to treatment patients with COVID-19 in order to keep them from being put on a ventilator. Therapeutic options now include hydroxychloroquine, remdesivir and the steroid dexamethasone, Wright said.

“By the time they get to the hospital these sick folks in critical care. Our doctors do things that they learn from the past, so our outcomes are increasingly better in these patients,” Wright said.

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