COVID-19 surge is hindering care of other patients, Louisiana hospital CMOs say

Mackenzie Bean - Print  | 

The chief medical officers for Natchitoches (La.) Regional Medical Center and Our Lady of the Lake in Baton Rouge, La., on Aug. 2 said the state's COVID-19 surge is placing a large strain on their hospitals and hindering their ability to provide high-quality care for other intensive care patients.

Phyllis Mason, MD, CMO at Natchitoches Regional Medical Center, said the hospital is seeing high volumes of both COVID-19 patients and patients seeking routine or emergency care. 

"It's really creating that bottleneck where we don't have the capacity on our medical floor to admit these patients," she said during a state news briefing.

The hospital is prioritizing COVID-19 admissions, meaning some patients who don't have COVID-19 are waiting two to four days in the emergency room before they can get a bed. 

"This is now not just about the COVID patient. This is about you, the general public, that we cannot provide quality care for you," Dr. Mason said.

Catherine O'Neal, MD, an infectious disease specialist and CMO of Our Lady of the Lake, said her hospital is facing a similar challenge. As of Aug. 2, there were 23 patients waiting to be transferred into the hospital's intensive care unit. Many of these patients — who may have chest pain or were in a motorcycle or farming accident — are waiting in small-town ERs that are not attached to a hospital or don't have a critical care physician on staff.

"​​When they get maimed today, they're not coming to a trauma center," Dr. O'Neal said. "That patient will lose muscle. They will lose years of their life. But they will stay in that ER because there are no more beds left for those 23 patients."

Dr. O'Neal said the hospital doesn't have enough staff to cover more beds, even after the federal government sent a 33-person disaster medical assistance team to the hospital to help with the surge.

"These are the darkest days of this pandemic. We are no longer giving adequate care to patients," she said.

Drs. O'Neal and Mason issued urgent pleas for the public to get vaccinated and resume masking to reduce the strain on hospitals and their staff. 

Louisiana has seen a 254 percent increase in new daily COVID-19 cases over the last two weeks, according to data tracked by The New York Times.

To view the full news briefing, click here.

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