UMMC Vice Chancellor: ‘We could not handle a surge’

Updated: Nov. 23, 2020 at 1:05 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - University of Mississippi Medical Center Vice Chancellor Lou Ann Woodward and other hospital officials came together today to voice their concerns over the rise in COVID-19 cases, and their ability to handle it.

Officials spoke on Monday afternoon, as COVID-19 cases continue to rise and as the Thanksgiving holiday approaches.

The news also comes on the heels of Mississippi’s highest single-day total of new COVID cases reported over the weekend.

Woodward was particularly concerned about their ability to handle additional patients, as well as the physical and mental health of their workers.

Meanwhile, she said the hospital was operating at capacity, and rarely had a bed empty.

She urged residents to not travel during Thanksgiving, and told media that the state needed to again implement a statewide mask mandate. She said that the county-by-county approach was not working.

“We’re very concerned about the Thanksgiving holidays and the change with college, with most (college kids) being home for Thanksgiving break and the remainder of the November and December time period,” she said. We’re concerned that case numbers will continue to go up, and concerned with the activities we’ve seen on social media and witnessed, with people getting out and being in crowded situations and not wearing masks.

“All of that gives us concerns,” Woodward said. “We could not handle a surge of a whole lot of more patients. We are at capacity as we speak.

“If the numbers rise … we simply will get to point, number one, to where we are out of beds, and we cannot safely make any other adjustments,” she said. “And two, even if we could line this lobby full of beds, we don’t have the staff to take care of the patients. Those are the two biggest pain points.”

Hospital officials also said they’re concerned about the doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals who care for coronavirus patients.

One emergency room nurse, Lacey Ward, said she had never questioned being a nurse until this summer, when cases “were so bad.”

“It was so defeating to come in and have so many people who were so sick, and who were dying and they can’t be near their loved ones,” she said, adding that she’s been in the room with patients when they’re making their final call to say goodbye to their loved ones.

She said she’s afraid to carry the virus home and give it to her and her three sons. “I get terrified every day coming home that I may give it to them,” she said. “The amount of exposure I have is exponential.

“I spray everything down with Lysol...and have a separate laundry,” she said. “It makes it a challenge even coming in the door, telling my three-year-old, ‘I have to go change and you can’t hug me right now.’”

Assistant Vice Chancellor Alan Jones said there are signs that hospitals across the region are also full, based on the number of transfer requests UMMC receives from hospitals out of state.

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