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Tallahassee Memorial Donations Help Fuel Hospital's COVID-19 Surge Preparations

Tom Flanigan
Tallahassee Memorial's Mustian Surgery Center

Thankfully, Florida's Capital City has had no sudden surge of COVID-19 cases. But even so, the city's two hospitals are ready in the event that surge comes. In this first of a two-part series, we speak with the head of the Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare Foundation.

As the coronavirus pandemic picked up steam, TMH Foundation President and Chief Advancement Officer Nigel Allen said the hospital issued a call for help.

"We sent out an email blast to a list of about 50,000 people under CEO Mark O'Bryant's signature. Literally in the next hour we received 100 donations that came pouring in by email. People heard we were requesting support so we could battle this virus as effectively as possible and they responded immediately and dramatically."

Allen said the final donation total came in at half-a-million dollars. And although that sounds like a lot of money, the need will ultimately total several million dollars in coronavirus-driven expenses.

"We used to pay 65 cents for each N95 mask. If we're lucky now as we go out to market, we can get them for $5 per mask. That's what this pandemic has caused. The supply is very, very limited and you have to pay the going rate to provide the protection for staff that's required."

Fortunately, predicted Allen, TMH won't have to pay those inflated prices, at least for a while.
"I'm happy to report that we've been very successful in conserving our resources and for the time being, we have an adequate supply of PPEs to protect our caregivers and patients as needed."
There's also some new technology.
"We've been able to very quickly provide funding for more than 50 telemedicine units of different kinds."

He said that will help maintain safe separation between patients and doctors in many settings, including the various testing sites, such as the ones at the Northwood Centre and FAMU campus.

"We're talking about using some of these funds to install an infrared camera system so that when anyone comes into the hospital, we can immediately identify if they've got a temperature and protect them and others by getting them to where they need to be provided for."

Allen added the hospital is even arranging to feed front-line staff as they care for COVID-19 patients in a specially-equipped ward separated from the rest of the hospital. So far, that facility remains unfilled. But Allen insisted that TMH is ready should the surge come.

"On the clinical side we've had some incredibly talented and dedicated folks working 24/7 for the past 6 to 8 weeks getting prepared for either the major onslaught of patients that may be coming, but also prepared for what is likely to be a chronic reality; that until there's an effective worldwide vaccine, we're going to be regularly taking care of patients who have been diagnosed with the virus."

And he was quick to point out that the fastest any vaccine has ever been developed - the one targeting mumps - was 4 years from initial testing to full-scale availability. In our next report, we'll see how Capital Regional Hospital across town has been preparing its staff and physical plant.

WFSU Local News Coronavirus
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Tom Flanigan has been with WFSU News since 2006, focusing on covering local personalities, issues, and organizations. He began his broadcast career more than 30 years before that and covered news for several radio stations in Florida, Texas, and his home state of Maryland.

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