Piedmont Athens Groundbreaking 2

Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center's Prince Tower One on January 23, 2020.

A Wednesday tweet from Athens-Clarke County Commissioner Russell Edwards saying both of Athens’ hospitals were unable to accept patients gained attention on social media.

“Both Athens hospitals are on total diversion, accepting no patients,” the tweet said.

Sydney Walker, a Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center spokesperson, said diversion is a “frequent occurrence for hospitals.”

“As is the case with normal operations, bed availability fluctuates in the hospital from time to time,” Walker said in an email. Diversion happens when an emergency department and inpatient beds are full and emergency medical service providers are instructed to take patients elsewhere, according to Walker.

The vast majority of PARMC’s patients aren’t being treated for COVID-19, Walker said in an email Thursday. PARMC is treating patients on an outpatient basis at its emergency department. Outpatient care means patients are not staying overnight at hospitals.

“We continue to treat patients for both routine and emergent visits, major surgeries, and labor and delivery. These patients, combined with the volume of COVID patients, are populating our hospital,” Walker said in a Thursday email.

St. Mary’s was on diversion due to a number of causes, not just COVID-19, spokesperson Mark Ralston said in an email Wednesday. The hospital was still accepting patients to its emergency department.

St. Mary’s has seen an increase in patients with serious COVID-19 symptoms in recent weeks, Ralston said in a July 8 email.

“It is somewhat unusual for the need for critical care beds to be this high at this time of year. The rise in patients with serious COVID-19 disease is contributing to the situation,” Ralston said in the July 8 email.

Jacqueline GaNun is a junior at the University of Georgia studying journalism, international affairs and French. She has held multiple roles on The Red & Black's news desk, including news editor and coronavirus reporter.

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