Posted: Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Foundation Awarded Grant Funds by TN Dept. of Human Services

The Blount Memorial Foundation has learned that it will receive a little more than $1 million to support the COVID-19 efforts of Blount Memorial Hospital through the Tennessee Community CARES Program.

The $1,061,538 grant will help to support three different projects for COVID-19 response at Blount Memorial Hospital: a freestanding medical tent for outdoor triage and treatment areas, additional medical equipment for use in critical care settings and a permanent structure for the outpatient curbside testing center at East Tennessee Medical Group in Alcoa.

“We are extremely appreciative of the work of our Foundation and for being named a recipient of these grant funds from the Tennessee Community CARES Program,” said Blount Memorial Hospital chief executive officer Don Heinemann. “For the past six months, our team of clinicians has worked hard to ensure that we are prepared to care for our community, and the additional funds will help to further support our efforts to respond to COVID-19 in Blount County.”

The first of the three grant-funded projects, Foundation president and chief operating officer Connie Huffman says, is equipping and supplying a 23x60’ COVID-19 triage, testing and treatment tent, which can be erected outside the hospital’s emergency department. “This will provide an additional space to care for up to 20 COVID-19 patients,” Huffman shared in the grant application. “Additionally, having the ability to isolate, screen, diagnose and treat, discharge or admit these patients within the tent decreases exposure, helping to mitigate the spread of this virus within our community – and within our hospital.”

As part of this project, some funds also will be used to support patient gurneys designated for tent use, as well as other treatment and diagnostic tools, including a portable X-ray machine.

The second project that will be supported by the grant focuses on expanding the medical equipment needed to care for an increased number of critical care patients outside of traditional critical care units.

One item in this category is a continuous renal replacement therapy (CRRT) machine, which allows clinicians to provide specialized COVID-19 therapy for critically ill intensive care patients. This therapy can be beneficial to patients who may be experiencing sudden kidney failure due to infection or trauma, which can be brought on by complications of COVID-19.

Additionally, as the hospital continues to expand and prepare for future expansions of its physical critical care treatment areas, two additional intensive care unit monitors are needed. “Over the past two months, we have realized a growth in our COVID-19 critical care bed needs, and as we prepare for future increases, we believe having all of our COVID-19 unit beds equally equipped will best meet the needs of our community,” Huffman explained in the grant. The addition of these two monitors can allow the hospital’s clinicians to effectively care for nearly 100 additional critically ill COVID-19 patients a year.

The final items in the enhanced medical equipment category include additional personal protective equipment, ventilators and high-flow oxygen additions, which allow the hospital’s existing bi-paps to be converted to ventilators, should the need arise. Also included are proning pillows, which are used to help position COVID-19 patients on their stomachs to relieve pressure on the heart and diaphragm, which can help clear respiratory secretions.

The third project covered by the grant is a permanent awning structure for the outpatient curbside testing center at East Tennessee Medical Group. The clinic, located on Joule Street in Alcoa, has provided drive-up testing since March 18, 2020, and it has administered more than 8,000 tests to our community – with that number only growing on a daily basis.

“We anticipate higher testing volumes moving into the fall and winter months, and a permanent structure will allow us to continue to perform COVID-19 testing throughout the winter months. The structure would have power, lighting, and the ability to heat and cool,” Huffman said. Additionally, if and when a vaccine becomes available for distribution to our community, this curbside structure will help clinicians administer the vaccines in a timely, safe and convenient way.

“As you can see, these grant funds will greatly benefit our hospital and outpatient clinic as we continue to care for our community amidst this pandemic, and we are extremely appreciative of the State of Tennessee for recognizing the need our state’s hospitals have fund available to support continued efforts to respond to COVID-19,” Heinemann said.

Greg Wilson, chair of the Foundation’s board of directors extends his appreciation to State officials for making the grant funds available, but he also applauded Blount Memorial Hospital and its staff.

“We have been extremely proud of the work that our doctors, nurses, therapists, technicians and other caregivers have provided to our community throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The Foundation is proud to be able to support your front-line work by working to obtain grants such as this and help provide you with the tools you need to continue to care for our community.”

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