Coronavirus (COVID-19) FAQs

Information on this page was last updated January 20th, 2021.

In a recent press release and FaceBook Video, HCMC’s CEO, Lisa Casteel, answered several questions that had been asked in various news and social media avenues.  We understand the video’s volume may pose difficulties to hear the entire information.  Therefore, we are listing the questions and responses from the video below.  We certainly hope you find this information beneficial.  

Hospital Beds and Ventilators Related Questions

  1. Why were you at capacity last week and had to cancel surgeries and not take any more patients? 
  2. How many ventilators do you have?
  3. How many COVID-19 patients can you have at HCMC?
  4. Why did you cancel or postpone my surgery?
  5. Why does it say you are licensed for 142 beds, but you do not seem to have room for that many patients?

Comment from CEO: All Tennessee hospitals are licensed through the State for bed capacity.  In our history, we were licensed for the 142 beds, several of which were used as semi-private rooms. Over time, we have movement from inpatient to outpatient (as in knee replacement surgery), found shorter patient length of stays (from a 9-day average stay in the 1990s to less than 5 days on average today), and found technologies and pharmaceuticals to assist with shorter stays.  All of these allow us to use all our rooms as private rooms.  Prior to the pandemic, our average occupancy has been no more than 55 patients.  We also have dedicated some of our rooms to specific types of services such as Behavioral Health. Our bed capacity is as follows by room type:

TypeDescription of Services# Beds
Critical Care UnitServes the seriously ill patients who received specialized care such as intensive monitoring and advanced life support.  Can take COVID-19 patients. 9 Beds on CCU Unit
Medical / Surgical BedsServes medical and surgical patients with less than critical care needs. Can take Covid-19 patient. 29 Beds on 3 Tower Unit16 Beds on 2 South Unit (Closed)
COVID-19 BedsServes those patients who are known to be COVID-19 positive and have less than critical care needs. 8 Beds on 2 East Unit
Women’s CenterServes those patients who are giving birth and with gynecological surgery. 10 Beds on Women’s Center 2 Triage Outpatient Beds 
Behavioral HealthA dedicated service for Behavioral Health needs.  12 Beds on 4 West Unit10 Beds on 3 West Unit (Closed)
Closed FloorUndefined currently. 8 Beds on 2 East Unit (Closed)

Total BedsStaffed Beds

104 Possible Beds 68 Available Inpatient Beds

We review our capacity throughout each day, knowing specifically what types of beds are available.  When all beds are full, we may hold patients in our ER, or transfer patients.  With the pandemic of COVID-19, we find patients to be sicker and stay much longer.  We also find it very difficult to transfer patients as other hospitals are also full.  When all beds are full and transfers are difficult, we may reschedule elective surgical cases.  If a need should arise from an elective surgery whereby an inpatient admission is needed, we would not have a bed for that patient.  Hopefully, this shows we are very responsible for our patients and plan for their surgery, recovery, and post-operative needs. 

The hospital continuously assesses and purchases equipment to meet its needs.  Historically, our 5 ventilators have been sufficient.  We have a ventilator on loan to us allocated from the state, bringing our total to 6. We also have 15 anesthesia machines that can be converted to ventilator usage if needed.  At this time, we have converted 3 of these machines.  Converting more will cause a decrease in surgical cases per day.  In April of 2020, we ordered 2 additional ventilators. These are on backorder, stating April 2021 as possible shipment date. In addition to ventilator devices, we also use Bi-Pap and Vapotherm devices.  


Staffing Questions

  1. Why don’t you have staff to take care of patients?
  2. I heard employees were getting bonus pay. Why? Where did the funding come from?

Comment from CEO: Labor pools are not always as plentiful in a rural community.  Healthcare has its special challenges as it requires specific degrees and certifications.  The nursing career has been particularly challenging.  Over the years those choosing nursing as a career has decreased while the population needs have increased. Also, those who may be a nurse find many opportunities other than at the hospital bedside including advancement to careers as Nurse Practitioners and Nurse Anesthetists.   There is already a demand for nurses.  During the COVID-19 pandemic, hospitals as well as other industries screening their employees have placed an ever-increasing demand for a number of nurses that just do not exist. 

We are paying Crisis Pay and Retention Pay to many of our employees.  The funding source has eligibility requirements that we meet and is from State and Federal resources. What we are paying is still not meeting the rates that are offered for travel nurses and for nurses in major metropolitan areas.  


Treatment Questions:

  1. How are we treating COVID-19 patients?
  2. What medicines and treatments do we have for COVID-19 patients?

Comment from CEO: We are treating COVID-19 patients with recommended practices as they become available.  These include such treatments as use of high flow oxygen, medications such as remdesivir, and infusion therapy with monoclonal antibodies such as bamlanivimab. There are many more.  These are just to name a few.  We also offer a new service line of outpatient Pulmonary Rehabilitation for those patients with lasting side effects who need rehabilitation therapy. 


Vaccine Questions

  1. How many COVID-19 vaccines did we provide the first day?
  2. What is the phasing for the COVID-19 vaccination process?
  3. Why is the vaccine only for Henry County residents?
  4. I will be 65 in a few days, why can’t I go ahead and get my vaccine?
  5. Why are we vaccinating 65 and up while other counties are just at 75 and older?

Comment from CEO: We have provided 600 Moderna vaccinations to health care workers beginning the week of December 23rd.  We included all health care workers throughout Henry County, not just those at the hospital.  We have provided 1,100 Pfizer vaccinations to both City and County Schools and the general public to include phase 1a1, 1a2, and 1ab.  

The Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) is the oversight body for designating how the vaccine is to be distributed.  The below attached chart is their original phases and the website information is as follows:  https://www.tn.gov/content/dam/tn/health/documents/cedep/novel-coronavirus/COVID-19_Vaccination_Plan.pdf . TDH has made changes to the original phasing of the COVID-19 vaccination process.  Original phasing included age 65 and over.  Changes from TDH showed graphically, the phases in groups with the age brackets appearing above the groupings in a bar chart.  HCMC used this information to establish the guidelines for the drive through pod to include 65+.  TDH has since revised the phases again stating the ages are not automatically included with the groupings.  TDH is now releasing the phase by county on its website: https://www.tn.gov/content/dam/tn/health/documents/cedep/novel-coronavirus/CountyPhaseStatus.pdf.  Henry County is currently listed as phase 1a1, 1a2, 1b, and 75 years and older. 

TDH determines the allocation of vaccine by county and to those counties.  HCMC does not determine any of these guidelines.  We have requested to participate with vaccinating not only Henry County, but also assisting in Benton, Carroll, and Stewart counties if needed.  


Finance Questions:

  1. How much money have you received for COVID-19?
  2. If things are so bad, why does HCMC have a profit?

Comment from CEO: HCMC has applied for all federally and state offered stimulus and grant funding sources available.  Some we met eligibility and some we did not.  Grand total funding received was $15.2 million.  These were funds for the hospital, Healthcare Center, EMS, the Rural Health Clinic, and our physician clinics. These funds have been used to: 1) cover lost revenues with decreases in volumes, especially from surgery; 2) cover increased costs for staff retention and contracted labor; 3) to purchase needed capital equipment related to COVID-19; and 4) to assist with general operating costs related to COVID-19. 

HCMC shows a profit for Fiscal Year Ended June 30, 2019 of $10,121. HCMC shows a loss for Fiscal Year Ended June 30, 2020 of ($4.3) million.  And, for Year-to-Date December 31, 2020 (6 months of operations) HCMC shows a profit of $1.8 million which is a 4% profit margin.  

Any business needs a profit margin to re-invest in capital purchases and grow its business.  Most would like to see a minimum of 5%.  


Last Question: I believe this pandemic is not as bad as everyone is making it and the numbers are being exaggerated.  Tell me why they are not?

Comment from CEO: The actual number of patients tested, and their results are reported to the State.  The actual number of COVID-19 positive patients admitted to a hospital are reported each day to the State.  The actual number of deaths related to COVID-19 are reported to the state.  In healthcare, we have proven guidelines for stating a diagnosis.  That could be heart failure, diabetes, pneumonia, influenza, and yes COVID-19, among many others.  The testing we do indicates those diagnosis and substantiates how we proceed with treatment.  Our information is audited by insurance companies as well as the federal government.  We would be charged fines and penalties and possibly debarred from programs for falsifying information.  

As I look at different areas of the news, no one questions if the raging fires in California are real or exaggerated.  No one questions reports on air quality in a given area.  Is it that the pandemic is something you do not see?  But, if you opened your eyes to see the faces of those who work in healthcare, you would see that it is real.  I am not a nurse or a clinician.  I am the CEO of this hospital.  I feel the pain of all my employees for the ongoing endurance that is required of them.  I am so proud of healthcare continuing to step forward every day to treat patients and save lives, even when many of the people choose not to open their eyes to begin to see what is happening every day.  


What is the 2019 Novel Coronavirus?

2019 Novel Coronavirus, or COVID-19, is a new respiratory virus first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. A novel coronavirus (CoV) is a new coronavirus that has not been previously identified. Download our Coronavirus FAQs Flyer.


What are the symptoms and complications that Novel Coronavirus 2019 can cause?

Current symptoms reported for patients with COVID-19 have included mild to severe respiratory illness with fever, cough, and difficulty breathing.


How does the virus spread?

It’s not clear yet how easily COVID-19 spreads from person-to-person. When person-to-person spread has occurred with MERS and SARS, it is thought to have happened mainly via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how influenza and other respiratory pathogens spread. Spread of MERS and SARS between people has generally occurred between close contacts.


What are the recommended precautions against the virus?

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.
  • Don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Stay home if you are sick.
  • Stay away from people who are sick.
  • Practice social distancing.

Has anyone in the U.S gotten infected?

Yes. There have been confirmed cases in the U.S. See the current U.S. case count of infection with COVID-19 at: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-in-us.html

View an infographic of ‘What we Know’ about COVID-19 symptoms, how it spreads, and treatment.