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Covid caseload strains hospital resources

SoVaNow.com / October 13, 2021
Rising COVID-19 infections in Mecklenburg and surrounding areas are straining the medical resources of area hospitals.

In the past seven days, the Virginia Department of Health reported 113 new COVID-19 cases in Mecklenburg County and three hospitalizations. Brunswick County reported 39 new cases and one hospitalization.

On Sunday, a woman seeking treatment for a spike in her blood pressure at the emergency room at VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital in South Hill said she and several other patients waited long hours before being seen by a physician. VCU Health CMH brought in physicians and staff from the main hospital to help with the backlog of ER patients, the woman said.

Reached for comment, VCU Health CMH spokesperson Kristy Fowler said, “Out of respect for patient privacy, we are unable to comment on a particular patient’s care without their expressed consent.

“Safety is our top priority — for our patients, our team members and our community. At times, hospitals may decide to go on diversion because of resources or bed capacity, which means that they work with EMS providers to temporarily send new patients elsewhere. Even when a hospital is on diversion, any patient arriving with a medical emergency will be accepted.

“When VCU Health System hospitals need to go on diversion, we have strategies in place to keep the instances we have to go on diversion to a minimum. To provide our patients with the right care in the right place at the right time, we offer telehealth services, allowing patients to see their doctors, nurses and other clinical staff from the comfort of their own homes. Virtual visits are available for routine appointments by calling (434) 584-2273, and we provide no appointment virtual urgent care.”

“We want our patients to continue to have access to safe, high-quality health care,” said Ikenna Ibe, M.D., who serves as vice president of medical affairs and chief medical officer at VCU Health CMH. “Telehealth provides a safe, convenient option to care for our patients from the comfort of their own home.”

The unnamed person’s experience is not unique to Southside Virginia.

A recent report by National Public Radio found that “the U.S. health care system is again buckling under the weight of a COVID-19 surge that has filled more than 100,000 hospital beds nationwide and forced some states to consider enacting ‘crisis standards of care’ — a last resort plan for rationing medical care during a catastrophic event.”

The federal Department of Health and Human Services maintains a hospital utilization database that shows nearly 99 percent of CMH’s in-patient beds and 88 percent of its ICU beds are filled. Twenty percent of the in-patient beds and 65 percent of the ICU beds are occupied by persons who tested positive for COVID-19, according to the same data source.

These numbers were last updated on Oct. 4.

Fowler said, “We [VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital] are currently seeing positive COVID cases nearing the levels of the winter surge. Positivity rates remain high at 10.3 percent in the Southside Health District. To safely continue caring for patients during an increase in COVID-19 cases in our region, we paused non-urgent, elective appointments and procedures in September. Urgent and emergency surgeries continue on an as-needed basis.”

The surge that occurred last winter may have helped VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital prepare for the current explosion of new cases.

Fowler said VCU Health CMH “is monitoring and will adapt our flexible surge plans, which have served us well throughout the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Surge plans include redeploying staff to critical areas and adjusting services to make room for emergent needs. These plans are in place to aid in our ability to provide the safest, highest-quality care to all our patients.

“On Aug. 9, VCU Health System leadership announced a new COVID-19 vaccine requirement for team members as part of our commitment to health and safety. We are both grateful and proud that an overwhelming majority of our team members have complied with our vaccination policy and by doing so, affirmed their commitment to the safety of our patients, their families, the commonwealth, and to each other. 99.9 percent of team members are compliant with our COVID-19 vaccine policy. Team members who have submitted proof of vaccination or have an approved exemption are considered compliant.”

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