Louisiana hospitals grapple with staffing as employees out sick with COVID-19

Louisiana hospitals are struggling to meet growing demands as COVID-19 surges and employees with the virus are quarantined, according to an Aug. 1 HoumaToday report.

In Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes, demand for intensive care beds is exceeding supply. Paired with staffing shortages, hospitals are reaching a tipping point, according to the news publication

Hospital leaders said increasing COVID-19 vaccination rates could help.

"I want to echo the fact that people get out and get vaccinated," said Greg Stock, CEO of Thibodaux (La.) Regional Health System. "It's a wise thing to do."

Currently, less than 30 percent of Terrebonne residents and 33 percent of Lafourche residents are fully vaccinated. Low vaccination rates in these parishes are met with some of the largest COVID-19 surges in the country. In a two-week period in July, Terrebonne reported 1,200 new cases and Lafourche reported 1,500 new cases.

Overwhelmed emergency departments have had to divert patients to other hospitals because there isn't space. Even when there is space, staffing shortages can keep hospital beds empty.

Houma, La.-based Terrebonne General Health System said its Houma (La.) hospital grappled to keep up with capacity because some employees tested positive for COVID-19.

"COVID-19 affects all staff because when a person is positive and has to be out, they are quarantined for at least ten days," a spokesperson told HoumaToday.

Baton Rouge, La.-based Ochsner Health System had 643 new COVID-19 patients July 30, a 17 percent increase in two days. Simultaneously, more than 520 Ochsner employees are in quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19, the report said.

"We are putting off surgeries that require overnight stays," said Robert Hart, MD, executive vice president and chief medical officer at Ochsner.

"[COVID-19 surges are] avoidable," said Warner Thomas, president and CEO of Ochsner Health System. "We are not seeing this in other areas with higher vaccination rates. The situation is escalating. It is not getting better; it is getting worse."


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