UMMC braced for a tough couple of months ahead

UMMC making preparating for another surge

JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) -The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients is the highest it’s been in Mississippi. There were 1,387 confirmed cases in the state’s hospitals Wednesday.

The University of Mississippi Medical Center is operating on what’s called contingency standards of care. The next level would be crisis standards.

“There is a limit to the resources that we have available and based on what we’re seeing right now, we will get to a point where that limit is hit,” said Dr. LouAnn Woodward, vice chancellor for clinical affairs and dean of the School of Medicine.

Their biggest concern isn’t space.

“I think if anything gets us into a situation where we would have to stop or cry uncle in providing care, if we ever got to that point, it would be due to staffing shortages, particularly nurses and nursing assistants,” explained UMMC assistant vice chancellor for clinical affairs Dr. Alan Jones.

But there’s something making the problem worse.

“We had a meeting earlier today and learned that some of the staffing agencies that are placing nurses all around the country right now are offering numbers like 150-200 dollars an hour for a nurse to come and work in their COVID areas,” added Jones.

A COVID system of care was activated statewide this month, requiring hospitals to accept transfers on a rotational basis. That’s something UMMC says is helping level out the demand.

“We’ve helped coordinate over 500 patients moved within the system,” described UMMC Chief Administrative Officer. “MED-COM has a rotation where we will send the patient, we will try to keep them as close as we can to the sending facility, but we basically do a round robin of where we send patients who need ICU level care to hospitals that have intensive care units even though everybody’s full.”

Still, they’re hopeful vaccine distribution will put the state in a better position by summer.

“From a health systems standpoint, we are braced for a couple of tough months but I don’t think we can take a whole tough year,” said Woodward. “I just don’t think we can continue to manage things.”

The hospital is having internal discussions about what it would look like if they reach a point where they move to crisis standards of care. That could include things like a change in the ratio of nurses to patients, for example. But they aren’t there yet.

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