JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Tuesday’s record-high coronavirus cases in Mississippi -- coupled with slightly increasing virus-related hospitalizations -- could spell trouble for the state’s health care system, according to an internal medicine specialist who’s seen the impact for himself over the course of the pandemic.
The rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations over the last few weeks doesn’t bode well for state leaders who allowed some elective surgical procedures to resume at hospitals across Mississippi, leading to far fewer beds than would have been available.
“We started allowing some of those elective procedures to come back. We started encouraging hospitalizations,” said Dr. Justin Turner, who runs his own practice. “So now, not only do we have a lot of people in the hospital with COVID-19, we still have the heart disease and the strokes and the pneumonias and the other things. Now we’re at a point where, what are we going to do? And if you have COVID-19, your average stay is 20-30, some people stay in there for 60 days.”
Mississippi’s hospitalization rate ranks second in the nation per capita, according to an analysis of state health department data by Mississippi Today.
Turner said the number of hospitalizations due to COVID-19 and the sometimes month-long recovery process has also been wearing on doctors and nurses.
The stories of struggle from patients, Turner said, only makes it worse.
“There’s a loved one who’s on a ventilator right now in a hospital who’s 38 years old. 38 years old. And the way things are looking, barring a miracle, will probably never walk again. Probably never talk again. Has tubes shoved down his throat. Kidneys have failed. Heart isn’t pumping right. On life support. And it’s been like that for 30 days,” Turner said.
An analysis of data released by the Mississippi State Department of Health also shows the state’s seven-day average of new coronavirus cases over time keeps climbing, reaching its highest ever average of 392 cases Tuesday.
“We appreciate everyone, but we should not be the first line of defense. Right now, the public needs to be the first line of defense,” Turner said.
Turner said people need to be wearing masks and keeping their distance to avoid infection, which could lead to hospitalization.
While hospitals statewide haven’t reached capacity yet, the slow recovery period for so many and the life-threatening conditions can be overwhelming even to veteran doctors and nurses.
“We’re tired. We’ve lost loved ones. We’ve lost physicians. We’ve lost nurses. We’ve had people in the health care field who have died after being exposed to someone with COVID-19. We’ve had someone who’s shown back up to the clinic who’s had COVID-19 and has infected health care workers since we’ve opened back up,” Turner said. “We should never get to the point where we put our individual interests in front of everyone. That’s not who we are as Mississippians.”