Rural hospitals overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients

Published: Aug. 24, 2021 at 4:20 PM EDT
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EVANS COUNTY, Ga. (WTOC) - Several rural Georgia hospitals came together Tuesday morning to give people a real picture of how strained they are with COVID-19 patients.

Four hospitals say their staff is overburdened with mostly unvaccinated COVID patients. They say their COVID wards are full and the direction this is going is concerning.

“I think the concern is...when is it over with,” Evans Memorial CEO Bill Lee said.

He says rural hospitals having so many deaths is not common. Jenkins County Medical’s CEO says 80 percent of their patients are COVID-related.

“All of those COVID patients are on oxygen and we have one patient that’s on a ventilator,” Jenkins County Medical Center CEO Antoine Poythress said.

Tattnall’s hospital administrator says they are all pulling resources from each other.

“We’ve all been in situations where we’re borrowing supplies from other hospitals just to meet our needs,” Optim Medical Center Tattnall Hospital Administrator Rob Snipes said.

Across the board, staffing is their greatest need. There’s no administrative staff in Screven. The CEO says everyone is on the floor because it’s all hands on deck.

“I’ve been working night shift myself you know, because I am a nurse you know, I can do that,” Optim Medical Center Screven CEO Lagina Evans said.

They say it’s not about affording to pay staff, it’s about finding and keeping them.

“If we just had three more nurses, it would make a world of difference,” Lee said.

And a lot of the time they need to care for sick patients is spent calling all over the state for open beds to transfer patients.

“You know, their response it that they’re overburdened, and they don’t have rooms available,” Snipes said.

“I am concerned...where are we going? Are we going to continue to see an upsurge in the fall or even a greater uptick in the fall that is really going to overwhelm our health system,” Evans said.

They say they are taking the opportunity to educate their patients, but the community can help itself by continuing to wear a mask and get the vaccine.

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