Rural hospitals across CSRA near capacity with COVID patients

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MCDUFFIE COUNTY, Ga. (WJBF) – The spike in coronavirus numbers can now be felt in rural hospitals across the CSRA.

Administration at University Hospital McDuffie told NewsChannel 6 beds are filling up with COVID patients. That’s the case at many other places too and as numbers rise, there’s a concern about how to treat people battling the virus.

“McDuffie County, in particular in the last two weeks, has been one of the higher counties in our region,” said Dr. Barry Jenkins, Chief Medical Officer & VP of Medical Affairs with University Hospital.

Along with McDuffie, Jefferson and Screven counties in Georgia and Regional Medical Center in South Carolina, which services Barnwell, Bamburg and Orangeburg Counties all report recent COVID increases. Dr. Jenkins said we are not seeing the same spike we saw earlier this year, but it’s all coming fast.

He said, “What we have seen this time that’s more concerning is that it has been a much more rapid rise in the hospitalizations. So, that has created a more taxing situation.”

Majority of the hospital’s more than a dozen beds are occupied by COVID patients, mostly unvaccinated. And for critical patients elsewhere, the situation is more dire.

“We do not have an ICU here at Jefferson Hospital, so if the patient is intubated or requires a higher level of care, we’re having issues currently having beds available,” Jefferson Hospital CEO Wendy Martin shared.

She added that Louisville is seeing the same increase in COVID cases it saw in January. And because patients battling the virus have a longer stay, she said the uptick in hospitalizations could soon cause a big issue with beds.

“We at any point, given a few admissions, could be at capacity,” she stated.

At Regional Medical Center there were 30 COVID positive inpatients at the start of this month. And in July, there were only 15 admissions. There are 17 positive admissions as of August 16, 2021.  Of those, two are vaccinated and 15 are unvaccinated.

Optim Medical Center-Screven is substantially feeling the impact of COVID-19, according to its Director of Marketing Meg Pace. She said they are prioritizing care for COVID-19 patients due to the high volume.

Dr. Jenkins added tools such as telemedicine help to avoid the need to transfer people to a larger medical facility. Augusta University does it too, and is now seeing 20-30 COVID patients across multiple rural hospitals via telemedicine.

“I think that we all are a little scared about what will happen since we don’t know when the peak will reach it’s apex,” Dr. Jenkins said.

While some patients in McDuffie have gone to Augusta and other places for treatment for the virus, as more people come, leaders say one option includes sending people out of state.

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