Athens hospitals over capacity, turning away patients, County Commissioner tells media

Georgia Department of Public Health statistics show a rise in hospital bed occupancy, especially in ICU/Critical Care beds, but statistics are not available on how many of those beds are occupied by confirmed COVID-19 patients at specific hospitals. GDPH figures show there are currently 2,902 COVID patients hospitalized in Georgia, an increase of 453 since one week ago.

Athens-Clarke County Commissioner Russell Edwards told The Flagpole - an "alternative" Athens newspaper, that local hospitals were at capacity and turning away patients.

Edwards said he learned about the diversion of patients from two doctors at Athens hospitals..."Both local hospitals are on total diversion, meaning they cannot accept any patients,” The Flagpole quoted Edwards as saying.

Flagpole stated that the two hospitals in question, The Georgia Emergency Management Agency and the Georgia Department of Public Health, did not respond to Flagpole‘s requests for comment.

Edwards later clarified that the hospitals were not turning people away from the emergency room. He did not specify what patients were being turned away.

In recent weeks, hospitals throughout Georgia have reported efforts to address the backlog of elective, non-emergency procedures that had been put on hold by hospitals under COVID-19 precautions, or that were cancelled/not scheduled by patients out of concerns regarding COVID-19 in a hospital setting.

The increased occupancy of hospital beds for non-Covid related procedures, combined with the recent increase in positive COVID-19 test results reported by the Georgia Department of Public Health both contribute to the lower number of "available beds" being reported daily in the GDPH Covid updates, said one hospital staff member in Franklin County who asked not to be named. No hospital officials in Athens responded to inquiries by ConnectLocal.

Locally, Stephens County Hospital has seen a marked increase in COVID-19 related hospitalizations, as well as an increase in the rate of positive test results.

SCH has reported that there has been a total of 3,693 COVID-19 tests conducted at SCH facilities, with a total of 487 individuals who were confirmed as infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus. There are currently 274 tests awaiting results from the lab. Six patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 are currently hospitalized at SCH.

“In our area and in many areas of the county, we have seen a significant increase in positive cases of COVID-19 over the last two weeks,” SCH spokesman Van Loskoski said in an update yesterday, July 16. He said they have tested nearly 1,500 people in the last two weeks alone and explained that, due to the combined factors of an increased numbers of patients sick with COVID-19 anda growing shorting of testing supplies nationwide, the hospital will no longer be testing asymptomatic individuals. This includes the originally scheduled drive-through testing planned for Monday, July 20 and July 27. (See footnote for information on testing options for Stephens County residents.)


Hospital Capacity - Georgia Department of Public Health data

Region E (Franklin, Hart, Elbert. Madison, Oglethorpe, Clarke, Jackson, Barrow, Oconee, Greene, Morgan and Walton counties)

July 17

142 ER beds: 37 (26.05%) in use; 105 (73.95%) available

70 Critical Care Beds: 64 (91.4%) in use; 6 (8.6%) available

633 General Inpatient Beds: 545 (86.1%) in use; 88 (13.9%) available

July 16

142 ER beds: 30 (21.1%) in use; 112 (78.9%) available

70 Critical Care Beds: 62 (88.6%) in use; 8 (11.4%) available

633 General Inpatient Beds: 550 (86.9%) in use; 82 (13.1%) available

July 10

142 ER beds: 47 (33.1%) in use; 95 (66.9%) available

70 Critical Care Beds: 60 (85.7%) in use; 10 (14.3%) available

632 General Inpatient Beds: 521 (82.4%) in use; 111 (17.6%) available

Region B (Stephens, Banks, Hall, Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Habersham, Rabun, Towns and Union counties )

July 17

185 ER beds: 42 (22.7%) in use; 143 (77.3%) available

137 Critical Care Beds: 113 (82.5%) in use; 24 (17.5%) available

806 General Inpatient Beds: 698 (86.6%) in use; 108 (13.4%) available

July 16

185 ER beds: 74 (40.0%) in use; 111 (60..0%) available

137 Critical Care Beds: 116 (84.7%) in use; 21 (15.3%) available

806 General Inpatient Beds: 700 (86.8%) in use; 106 (13.2%) available

July 10

185 ER beds: 34 (18.4%) in use; 151 (81.6%) available

137 Critical Care Beds: 116 (84.7%) in use; 21 (15.3%) available

776 General Inpatient Beds: 673 (86.8%) in use; 103 (13.2%) available


July 17

3,387 ER beds: 1,862 (55.0%) in use; 1,525 (45.0%) available

2,890 Critical Care Beds: 2,461 (85.4%) in use; 429 (14.6%) available

14,994 General Inpatient Beds: 12,467 (83.1%) in use; 2,527 (16.9%) available

2,796 Adult ventilators : 1,104 (39%) in use; 1,692 (61%) available

2,902 people currently hospitalized for treatment of COVID-19 complications. T

3,132 COVID-related fatalities in Georgia since March 2,

1,198,678 Total viral tests

135,183 positive Viral (not antibody) test results.

Average age of those who died as a result of COVID-19: 73.5.

July 16

3,387 ER beds: 1,881 (55.5%) in use; 1,506 (44.5%)available

2,861 Critical Care Beds: 2,400 (83.9%) in use; 461 (16.1%) available

14,981 General Inpatient Beds: 12,567 (83.9%) in use; 2,414 (16.1%) available

2,804 Adult ventilators : 1,098 (39%) in use; 1,698 (61%) available

2,841 people currently hospitalized for treatment of COVID-19 complications. T

3,104 COVID-related fatalities in Georgia since March 2,

1,178,222 Total viral tests

131,275 total positive Viral (not antibody) test results.

Average age of those who died as a result of COVID-19: 73.5.

July 10

3,391 ER beds: 1,798 (53.0%) in use; 1,593 (47.0%) available

2,869 Critical Care Beds: 2,341 (81.6%) in use; 528 (18.4%) available

14,982 General Inpatient Beds: 12,481 (83.3%) in use; 2,501 (16.7%) available

2,819 Adult ventilators : 990 (35%) in use; 1,819 (65%) available

2,443 people currently hospitalized for treatment of COVID-19 complications. T

2,965 COVID-related fatalities in Georgia since March 2,

1,046,348 Total viral tests

111,211 total positive Viral (not antibody) test results.

Average age of those who died as a result of COVID-19: 73.7.

No indication is given for any of the data sets as to how many of the in-use beds and/or ventilators are in use by COVID-19 patients, and now many are being occupied or used by non-Covid patients.

On March 22, ConnectLocal published an article regarding Georgia hospital capacities, referencing data from he American Hospital Directory and the Harvard Global Health Institute. According to the AHD, Georgia, at the end of 2019, had a total of 22,344 staffed hospital beds, while HGHI put the total at 23,831. Both of those figures are slightly higher than the ~21,242 beds accounted for in the GDPH statistics, despite the fact that multiple Covid-related facilities and more than 300 hospital beds were reported as having been added in Georgia since March to deal specifically with COVID-19 medical needs. Data supplied by AHD and HGHI also showed that, prior to COVID-19, approximately 74 percent of hopital beds throughout the state are routinely filled by a combination of elective procedures and emergency care.


We are no longer able to provide testing for asymptomatic individuals. Testing will be done as a diagnostic tool for symptomatic patients of our facilities and for patients who require a COVID-19 test in conjunction with a medical procedure scheduled to be performed at our facilities. We’ve spoken at length with the Department of Public Health who is providing testing for asymptomatic individuals at the health departments in Franklin, Habersham, and Hall counties and they have asked for asymptomatic residents of Stephens County who wish to be tested for COVID-19 to contact those health departments as they work to hopefully bring testing services to Stephens County in the near future. Please go to their website which is or contact their COVID-19 hotline at 844-442-2681. This means we will not be hosting our previously scheduled drive-through testing on Monday July 20th or July 27th. For individuals who are sick, we ask that you seek medical treatment by calling your primary care provider. If you do not have a primary care provider and are sick, we are glad to see you at WorkWell Immediate Care Clinic, but ask that you please call in advance, 706-282-5815. We thank you all for your understanding and want to reassure you that we are doing everything we can in the fight against COVID-19. Thank you for trusting Stephens County Hospital for your care.


• Department of Public Health COVID-19 Hotline: 844-442-2681

• Stephens County Health Department: 706-282-4507

Testing Locations (by appointment):

• Franklin County Health Dept: 706-384-5575

• Habersham County Health Dept: 706-778-7156

• Hall County Health Dept: 770-531-5600

WorkWell Occupational Medicine & Immediate Care Clinic does have testing capabilities for patients suspected of having COVID-19. Testing is done by appointment and only following assessment by a medical provider of that clinic. If you have symptoms of COVID-19 and wish to be assessed at WorkWell, please call 706-282-5815.


© 2020 ConnectLocal