Orleans, Jefferson Parish healthcare workers help areas around the state as COVID cases rise

Hospital staff shortages around the state

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - As parts of the state face a nursing shortage, hospitals in Orleans and Jefferson Parishes are doing what they can to help the problem.

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise throughout the state, Shreveport doctor Ghali Ghali says there’s a staffing shortage in some hard-hit areas.

“We increased the number of beds, but in certain parts of the state, we’re also seeing issues with staffing, and that’s correct. We need nurses. There’s a huge nursing shortage to start out with,” Ghali said.

He says some of the shortage is due to nurses catching COVID-19 and having to quarantine.

”There’s certainly risk in a hospital, and I have colleagues who have become infected. This week alone, I know a few colleagues who got infected, unfortunately, but I also know colleagues who got infected outside of the hospital too,” said Dr. Joseph Kanter with the Louisiana Department of Health.

Ghali says they brought in nurses pre-COVID, but many were laid off in April when elective surgeries dropped.

“Most of them are from out of state so they’re hard to bring back, so there are some staffing issues that we’re having to deal with right now,” Ghali said.

However, local hospitals in greater New Orleans say they're not short-staffed right now.

“The shoe’s almost on the other foot right now. Back in March and April when we had this unprecedented rise in cases in the New Orleans area, we relied on hospitals outside the region to care for some of our patients,” Kanter said.

An LCMC spokesperson says they are ready to redeploy staff within the system as needed.

“Now, because we maintained good capacity right now thankfully, we’re having the fortunate ability to pay it forward,” Kanter said.

Dr. Ghali also says treatments like convalescent plasma are helping patients recover quicker, shortening hospital stays.

We reached out to a blood bank recruiter at East Jefferson who says the need for plasma slowed down a month ago but recently increased.

“We have started to see an uptick in usage. Certainly not at the level we were using it during the very early on, critical period, but we have started to see an increase,” said Susan Persigo, a blood bank recruiter.

She says while convalescent plasma was previously used to help treat patients with severe symptoms, it’s now used as an early treatment to help patients recover faster.

“Pretty much every day someone’s getting plasma sometimes more than one patient per day, and it’s been pretty consistent,” Persigo said.

She says they are searching for those tested positive for COVID-19 and recovered to donate convalescent plasma.

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