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Flagler Health + Recognizes Anniversary of the First Patient Diagnosed with COVID-19 in Northeast Florida

  • Category: News
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  • Written By: Gina Mangus
Flagler Health + Recognizes Anniversary of the First Patient Diagnosed with COVID-19 in Northeast Florida

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – March 10, 2021 – One year ago today Flagler Health + made history as the first health care system in Northeast Florida to treat a patient diagnosed with COVID-19. And over the course of the year that would follow, nearly 600 patients were treated for COVID-19 at Flagler Health + Flagler Hospital, thousands of people were tested, and now, thousands vaccinated by Flagler Health+.

“We felt it was important to commemorate the anniversary of the first COVID-19 case and recognize the incredible achievements that have occurred throughout this unprecedented time,” said Flagler Health + President and CEO Jason Barrett. “I continue to be awed by the resilience and unwavering commitment that our team has demonstrated through what many consider to be the most challenging time in our immediate history. I could not be more proud of our staff.”

Each staff member – both clinical and nonclinical – was vital to ensuring that patients received the best possible care. And now, each team member will be recognized as being a COVID-19 Hero with a commemorative pin. Close to 2,000 pins will be distributed in recognition of the resiliency, sacrifice, and unwavering commitment to the patients served throughout a very difficult year.

With the arrival of COVID-19 to St. Johns County, so came changes to the Flagler Health + Flagler Hospital campus. The most visibly noticeable change was an emergency medical triage tent that was established to isolate patients presenting to the ER with COVID-19 symptoms. This allowed patients presenting with unrelated illnesses and injuries to be cared for without the risk of additional infection spread. Inside the hospital, dedicated units were established to safely care for COVID-19 patients, with many unknowns about transmission at that time. An inter-professional team made up of environmental services, facilities, supply chain, respiratory therapy, the emergency department, critical care and medical staff collaborated to set up these units within days.

And while the entire world was learning the best courses of treatment for patients with COVID-19 from each other in real-time, Flagler Health + providers also needed to lean on the expertise of each other to collectively analyze, maintain and adjust treatment plans for each patient. Chief Medical Officer Miguel Machado, in collaboration with the Medical Executive Committee, assembled a team of physicians to oversee and approve developing treatment protocols.

This team – affectionately designated “The Fab Five” – included Hospitalist Jerome Tuitt, MD, emergency care physician Brian Kiekover, MD, critical care physician Javier Aduen, MD, infectious disease specialist Vivek Manikal, MD, and primary care physician Todd Batenhorst, MD. For months this team rotated call every day and night, providing guidance and support for achieving the best outcomes for our patients with COVID-19 diagnosis.

Their collaboration and expertise helped chart the course for recovery for many of our patients, with some of the best outcomes in the State, and was just one of many examples of our Flagler Health + steam rising to the occasion and relying on teamwork to provide exemplary patient care.

“This pandemic required us to be nimble while also laser focused. The fear of the unknown could have been a barrier; however, this is not what we experienced at Flagler Health+. I felt very proud and inspired by the sincere dedication and continuous collaboration. Teams were working closely together to navigate these uncharted territories, including opening additional beds, conserving PPE, increasing safety surveillance, managing shortages of medication and PPE, and most recently managing the vaccination clinics. Many of us have mentioned how nice it has been work with professionals that we don’t typically see throughout the day. It felt like it brought a new meaning to being a “work family,” recalls Nangela Pulsfus, MHL, BSN, RNC, C-EFM, EVP, Patient Care Services, Chief Clinical Officer.

To learn more about Flagler Health+, visit