LAUREL, Miss. (WDAM) - Hospitals in Mississippi are operating above normal capacity after an increase of COVID-19 patients, which could impact emergency care offered by the medical centers.
On Monday, State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said nine major medical centers in the state have zero ICU beds available.
South Central Regional Medical Center in Laurel had 13 intensive care beds before the pandemic, and now the hospital has surged its capacity to 19 beds, with as many as 16 occupied as of Sunday.
“We took six of the beds in what we call the ‘fast track,’ and we took those out of services for that purpose and put them into service as ICU beds,” said Dr. Mark Horne of South Central Regional Medical Center.
The hospital staffs those beds with ICU nurses on their days off.
“We can’t surge people that take years to train,” Horne said.
Staffing has become the issue around the country as healthcare workers continue to work overtime.
“There are not enough experienced ICU nurses and respiratory therapists to surge capacity beyond what we’re doing right now,” Horne said.
This stress on the healthcare system will mean patients may not get emergency care they desperately need.
“The ability to get the care that you need is going to be limited because we’re going to be so full of everything else,” Horne said.
Horne pleaded for the community to help the hospitals in Mississippi.
“People need to get in the game,” Horne said. “Understand this is not politics to wear a mask, to not gather in big groups where you can spread this around.”
Horne added that if we do these things and do them correctly, we will flatten the curve again.
Forrest General Hospital is another hospital in the Pine Belt seeing an increase in patients.
“Hospital remains very full but not currently on diversion,” said Dr. Stephen Farrell from Forrest General Hospital. “We continue to be able to move patients through our system as critical beds are required.”