Hospitals describe toll of increasing COVID patients and demand on the system

Published: Aug. 9, 2021 at 10:24 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - The strain of COVID-19 on Mississippi hospitals is worse than ever.

We’ve heard that the situation is bad in Mississippi hospitals. We asked one doctor, “How bad is it?”

“It’s awful,” said Dr. Teri Dyess, St. Dominic Hospital Associate Chief Medical Officer and Director of Hospital Medicine. “You’re going to wait hours here. And that’s painful as a physician to see people wait — 89 years old and waiting for 10 hours to see a physician and then be told you don’t meet the criteria to come in the hospital. I encounter nurses every single day that are in tears. They feel like they can’t do it anymore.”

Saint Dominic had 103 COVID patients Monday — the most they’ve seen during this latest wave. When they see numbers like those from the weekend, they know the demand will just keep growing. So then what?

“We’re already looking at are we going to have to set up tents outside the hospital,” described Dyess. “Truly looking at a field hospital. I think that’s what we’re seeing next.”

They’re also trying to figure out creative ways to maximize the space they do have.

“We’re seeing a good many husband/wives, mother/daughter teams coming in to be admitted,” said Dyess. “So what can we do? We’re already on a bed shortage. Can we have them share a room? We’re looking at that possibility.”

Mississippi Baptist Medical Center pulmonologist Dr. Maria Rappai echoed the same space issues.

“Mostly non-vaccinated patients coming in with COVID,” explained Rappai. “Our emergency room is holding several patients for ICU, and we don’t have beds to move them to.”

Rappai stresses the importance of seeking out antibody treatment if you do get a COVID diagnosis.

“It is an available therapy,” noted Rappai. “You come in, you get a one-hour infusion or monitor it is giving you antibodies that are directly to neutralize the COVID virus.”

Vaccination is the first priority in terms of tools to keep the number of hospitalizations down. But monoclonal antibody treatment is another way to keep those numbers lower, and it seems to be working.

“We’re seeing very few have to come back and then be admitted for ongoing symptoms,” said Dyess.

But Rappai makes this note for those who find their symptoms worsening:

“Come earlier in your illness,” said Rappaid. “If you wait too long, it kind of causes — has already caused enough damage in your lungs that it’s going to be a lot a lot longer hospital stay.”

State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs tweeted Monday saying that the weekend’s case numbers alone will translate to 500 new hospitalizations in the coming days.

Again, that’s to hospitals that are already out of space.

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