CHATHAM COUNTY, Ga. (WTOC) - Hospitalizations for COVID-19 have reached new heights in the Coastal Empire. The new year brought the highest total of COVID-19 cases in the hospital at 170 on Thursday. It’s forcing Memorial Health to have some tough conversations.
“No one wants to be in this situation of having to be worried about too many patients that can be cared for, but it is reassurance that we have planning around this and have already worked our process around how we deliver care and shift where care is delivered within the hospital and are employing those strategies successfully right now,” Associate Chief Medical Officer Dr. Stephen Thacker said.
Dr. Thacker said he believes the surge hospitals are seeing now is from Thanksgiving and the beginning of Christmas gatherings. At the start of the day (Jan. 8) they were treating 76 patients with the infectious disease, eighteen of those in the ICU.
“What’s really driving the surge now is a lot of just small size, you know, 10 to 20 people gathering either for family or friends’ events. These types of group gatherings are now what’s really driving a large part of our surge experience,” Dr. Thacker said.
While they have more than 70 COVID patients, Dr. Thacker adds they are also serving additional patients who no longer have COVID, but are recovering from the virus. These high numbers are forcing them to adjust their services.
“We’re just shifting where were taking care of COVID patients within the hospital. Everyday there is an assessment of where we are with the number of patients that we have, where we expect we will be in the coming days and thinking through our staffing challenges making sure we can meet those needs and are paying attention to do we need to change on how we deliver care, examples of that in the past have been changing how elective surgeries are being performed,” Dr. Thacker said.
He says to this point they haven’t changed their surgery schedule, but are evaluating as staffing is tight should trends keep going up.
“With our current workforce we can do that, but we’ll ask people to work you know extra shifts to accomplish that so the goal is to create as much resource from a staffing capacity standpoint so we can be prepared,” Dr. Thacker said.
Dr. Thacker predicts we’ll see cases continue to rise for the next two to three weeks and is hopeful they won’t have to exceed their surge level of 120 COVID patients.
He urges the community to double down on the best public health practices avoiding gatherings, wearing a mask, and more as we not only see a high case count but also a new variant of the virus.