Dr. Joe Weigel

Dr. Joe Weigel

Our lives have changed drastically since the coronavirus hit the U.S. shores.

But the lives of health-care professionals have been turned upside down, as medical scientists, physicians, nurses and home-health providers are all scrambling to find a way to shut the COVID-19 down, and treat new patients who are becoming ill.

"The coronavirus is by far the most serious public health issue of our lifetimes," said Somerset physician Dr. Joe Weigel, the Director of the Internal Medicine Residency Program and Director of the Medical Student Education Program at Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital.

Weigel said the "lack of accurate and timely testing" has been the biggest hinderance in battling the global pandemic.

"In some respects, we've been flying blind," Weigel said. "The problems with testing are really holding back an organized approach at this point."

Despite the tremendous challenge, Weigel said Pulaski countians should feel confident in Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital and the local health-care community.

"Although the stress level is above normal, the medical community is adapting to the new realities we are facing," Weigel said. "We are moving toward Telehealth for those who can speak with us on the phone or by video chat. Both Residency Programs have created a much larger number of physicians present in the hospital at all times — more than are present in other communities our size.

"There is real awareness of the magnitude of the challenge in front of us and the people of Pulaski County need to know that every possible measure to assure excellent care has, or is, being taken," Weigel added.

Weigel believes that social distancing and the partial "shutdowns" are very necessary. And, like many health-care professionals, Weigel believes President Donald Trump's target of Easter for getting the country back to normal might be overly optimistic.

"I don't think any medical person believes that can happen — certainly (Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is on the president's coronavirus task force) does not believe that can happen," Weigel said. "I fully understand the concern over the economy ... I worry about it, too."

But it will take some time for the sacrifices we are making to pay dividends in this war against the virus's spread.

"I'm worried about maintaining an intact medical system that remains capable of dealing with other serious issues while this is going on," Weigel pointed out. "That means we must avoid overloading the system, or people will die from routine illness when they should not. Taking care of COVID-19 patients is very resource intensive, especially when they are seriously ill. New York City is a war zone right now."

Although Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital now has coronavirus patients in its care, Weigel said that hasn't changed the outlook.

"We have a unit that is exclusively dedicated to their care," Weigel said. "And we have been treating several persons under investigation for the last several days."

Weigel said citizens can help lessen the impact on hospitals by simply staying home unless they are becoming very ill.

"Unless you are feverish and short of breath, or sick enough to believe you might need hospitalization, the best course of action is to stay home and recover," Weigel said. "Every person who enters our system right now will be treated seriously and professionally. And if hospitalization is needed, our physicians are very capable.

"But most people should treat fever, headache and body aches with Tylenol in recommended doses," he added.

Weigel is certain local health-care needs will be met during this crisis — so there's no reason to panic.

"This community is very fortunate to have a cadre of very bright young physicians doing supportive care that is the equivalent of that being given anywhere," Weigel said. "We will be the center for that care in south central Kentucky."

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