JACKSON, Mississippi (WLBT) – With COVID-19 hospitalizations tripling in Mississippi in the past two weeks, administrators at four of these facilities remain concerned about the lack of adequate staff during the pandemic that has already compromised care to patients.
Susan Russell, chief nurse at Singing River Health Systems, said 15-20% of her nurses can call on any day, largely because they can be infected with COVID-19.
These staff reductions also affect the number of beds – including the intensive care unit – that can be staffed.
“Most importantly, we continue to have fewer individuals and staff who can open more beds. And that wasn’t the case in previous outbreaks, ”Russel said. “It started to be more pronounced in Delta. “
Russell describes the community spread that inevitably leads to infected nurses and doctors as a double-edged sword.
“We’re cut off on both sides,” Russell said.
On Friday, the state’s health department said Mississippi has 47 intensive care beds, a number that nearly doubled on Monday to more than 80.
Neshoba County General Hospital General Manager Lee McCall said these numbers can be very misleading to the public.
“This is incorrect. Twice last week I contacted several hospitals, several administrators myself and asked them, “Do they have an intensive care bed available? “And all of them said no,” McCall said. “We transported a patient to Pensacola, Florida the other night. It was the only accepting facility in a multi-state area where we could bring the ventilated patient. It’s crisis mode right now.
If a hospital doesn’t have the staff to open beds, it can’t transfer intensive care patients to those beds, which means even those who don’t have COVID-19-related illnesses have already been affected.
“It could be a brain hemorrhage, it could be a heart attack. It can be any ongoing series of illnesses that require you to get a higher standard of care, ”McCall said. “And we can’t get you there.”
Singing River has around 70 intensive care beds spread across the three hospitals in its network, but fewer nurses and healthcare workers mean they are also less likely to accept transfers.
“During the Delta wave, our hospitals accepted over 100 patients from other parts of this state,” Russell said. “We are not able to start over. And given the fact that there will be more people affected, that’s a cause for concern. I am a permanent resident of the state, I am concerned about the citizens of this state. And we are in a very worrying situation.
Mississippi Department of Health director of health protection Jim Craig on Friday told reporters there were limited resources across the country for additional staff, especially in nursing.
“I’m not sure if we’ll be able to attract the type of staffing levels that we’ve seen in Delta from anywhere in the country right now, including some of these federal resources,” Craig said.
Still, Russell said they had to try.
The first step, according to the two administrators, is for Governor Tate Reeves to declare a state of emergency so that these resources can be more easily obtained.
Reeves allowed the original emergency order to expire in November.
“We’ve been dealing with these flare-ups for two years, and it’s taken its toll. I know that more state aid in the form of funding would be appreciated. Every hospital I have spoken to is in major financial disarray as a result of COVID, ”said Russell. “COVID doesn’t pay well, there are times we have had to not do the procedures we need to do. And certainly more federal help would be appreciated. But if it doesn’t make it to hospitals, where they can turn it into resources, that’s a problem. “
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