LACEY – Township officials recently heard a presentation by Patrick Ahearn, the chief executive officer of Community Medical Center of Toms River, about how the hospital has been handling COVID-19.
Ahearn recalled the early months of the pandemic. “We have 16 units (different nursing units in our hospital). Of those 16 units, 12 of them were for COVID patients. We were pretty much overrun with COVID then we saw a break during the summer. We were getting 160 patients a day.
“It was pretty devastating. We did a lot of great things to make sure our patients remained safe. We got through the summer and we hoped it was over and I think we were all lulled into a false sense of security when it went as low as 10 to 15 patients a day and then in November and December, we saw the spike,” he said. “The spike wasn’t as great but we saw that the spike lasted a lot longer. We saw a mountain. It went up and then it went down quickly but this time it went up and stayed up for quite some time. Now we are finally seeing the break. We are seeing things come down. We were the third busiest COVID hospital in the state and we continue to be the third busiest hospital in the state.”
He noted that CMC was averaging in two months between 110 and 120 cases which is down from 160 cases a day. “In the past few weeks, we are starting to average 70 to 80 and we have been in that range which is great. The thing I think is most exciting to the staff is that last week we were able to turn one of our COVID units back to a regular unit. Next week we will probably be able to turn another back.”
Ahearn said statewide COVID-19 cases were going down. He said that in January “we were seeing 5,000 new cases across the state a day.” He said last month that number dropped to 2,500. “That is a great tribute to what we are doing in vaccinating the public. CMC is a vaccination site since day one. In the beginning it was for our staff and for our physicians.”
The hospital has vaccinated about 4,000 members of the public, as of that presentation, he said. They could do more, but there isn’t enough vaccine being delivered.
Ahearn said “my concern is that people are avoiding health care. Our emergency room volume is down and so part of my message to the public is really about the safety of the environment. We do everything we can to keep the place safe and every person who gets admitted gets tested so we make sure we place them in the right place.”
He said personal protective equipment supplies is no longer an issue. “We have plenty of supplies to keep our staff safe. A lot of our patients are bringing COVID along with them in so we try to make sure all patients wear masks also. Very rarely, and I can count on one hand has any of our staff given anyone covid.”
Ahearn said the hospital staff is seeing people come in much sicker than previously due to waiting to come in for needed treatment and care. He told the Lacey Committee, “you are the community. You are the ones in touch with the people in the community. Continue to bring that message not to delay your health care.”
He was also excited to mention that “a few weeks from now we’ll have our first helicopter that will be available. If someone is really sick, we can get them there very quickly. It is 14 minutes from us and Robert Wood Johnson Hospital.”
“We just opened a new cardiovascular lab and we have plans for a new women’s center hub in Barnegat as we have here in Forked River and we have a big outpatient hub we are putting up in west Toms River. It is part of our commitment to bring our services out to the community,” Ahearn said.
RWJ Barnabas Health representative Teri Kubiel was in the audience during Ahearn’s presentation and she said, “we have had over 50,000 people” vaccinated at the hospital’s Arena vaccination site in Toms River.