Morgan County’s healthcare leaders are urging the public to help manage the current surge of COVID-19 as Jacksonville Memorial Hospital has become overrun in the last two weeks.
President and CEO of Jacksonville Memorial Hospital, Dr. Scott Boston says Jacksonville Memorial staff are feeling the strain from the surge of the Omicron variant of COVID that has pushed the hospital to its limits.
Boston says within the last week, at one point 15 of the 20 beds in the Emergency Department were filled with patients needing to be admitted to the hospital, but there were no beds available. He says JMH has been treating double or more than the average number of patients across the board.
“The average number of patients we take care of is generally in around the twenty-five to thirty range, I mean, we’re twice that. We’ve had days we were up to sixty patients in the hospital, so we are taking care of twice as many patients as we normally would. In addition to that, we are taking care of a higher severity of illness patients. Our average intensive care patient volume on an average day would be about four patients pre-pandemic. We’ve been averaging eleven or twelve ICU patients every day for the last two or three weeks.
So we are taking care of three times as many critically ill patients now than we would have in normal times. And usually, we would have maybe two or three patients on a ventilator, but at one point earlier in the week we had eleven patients on a ventilator for a few days.”
Boston says the number of patients got to a point that they had to bring more ventilators in from other Memorial Health locations. He says with the current state of the pandemic, Jacksonville Memorial wants to make sure the public knows when and when not to go to the ER.
“We really want people to know that we are open twenty-four seven, we are always here to take care of you. The trick when we are in these sort of resource-limited times is really to try and help navigate people to the right place for care. Right being the most efficient and effective way to get your care.
If you’re having chest pains, if you’re short of breath, if you’re having stroke symptoms, those patients need to come to the emergency room. We really really want to stress the fact that we are open and available and the emergency room is there to take care of you.”
Boston says people who need to get a COVID test to go back to work or school and those with minor symptoms of any sickness such as cough, sore throat, and sinus congestion are better served by going to their primary care doctor or an express or urgent care facility. He says with the current strain on staff, the emergency room is best suited for people who are in need of emergency treatment.
He says currently the emergency department, inpatient, and ICU are all under stress due to the sheer number of COVID patients being taken care of. Jacksonville Memorial Hospital peaked this week with 22 people hospitalized due to COVID. That number has since dropped to 16, however, Boston says that comes with a caveat.
“We count people as being COVID positive, we keep them on isolation status for twenty days. After their twentieth day in the hospital, they are no longer considered infectious and they come off of our isolation standards for COVID-19. So we have multiple patients in the hospital who have been with us more than twenty days.
And so while our COVID number has gone down, partly that is because these patients are still here but they are not classified as COVID positive. Unfortunately, COVID is still a fatal illness for certain individuals and we have had COVID deaths in our hospital this week.”
Boston says one glimmer of hope is that the number of COVID admissions from the emergency department is not as high as it was 7 to 10 days ago and due to that and other factors, the Decision Science Team is predicting that the transmission peak could come in the next 7 to 10 days. However, they still predict Jacksonville Memorial will be treating 15 to 20 COVID patients over the next few weeks.