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‘Very dangerous spot,’ Hospital leaders worried as number of patients sets new pandemic high

Published: Aug. 3, 2021 at 5:04 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - COVID-19 is putting an extreme strain on Louisiana’s healthcare system.

“We are right now in a very dangerous spot,” says N.O. Mayor’s Communications Dir., Beau Tidwell.

In New Orleans, the average daily number of cases went from 209 last week to 298.

“At some point, every hospital system hits a breaking point. Unless some major changes are made, that includes cutting back even further on critical care, elective surgeries, and other procedures,” says Nirav Patel, M.D.

Chief Medical Officer of UMC, Dr. Patel says bed space right now isn’t a major problem, but the rise in COVID patients will create a serious issue for all other patients.

“If we’re strained, and we don’t have the resources to take care of the patients that are coming into the ER, or being transferred from other hospitals, then that’s where this road leads,” says Patel, M.D.

“This touches everyone. This is a concern for everyone,” says Tidwell.

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“We’ve already opened a surge ICU, so now I’m running three full ICUs. We had to discontinue elective surgeries so that we could turn our recovery room into a third ICU. Where do we go next?” says Michele Sutton.

Sutton, the President and CEO of North Oaks Hospital on the Northshore says staffing is extremely low. She says 62 employees are out, sick with COVID.

“We have beds, but we don’t have people to staff them,” says Sutton.

Right now, she says 50% of the patients at the facility are COVID positive.

Across the Ochsner system, there are now more than 800 patients, a 25% increase from last Friday.

“It’s scary. We don’t want to be in a position where we are turning away patients or patients are waiting for care that they need. Fortunately, we have not been in that situation, but we are at a point where our hospitals are full,” says Katherine Baumgarten, M.D.

Emergency rooms at all the area hospitals are seeing a serious influx of patients. New Orleans EMS tells FOX 8, in some cases, EMTs are waiting up to an hour on the ramp to unload patients at area hospitals.

“It creates more backlog in the emergency rooms because there are such high numbers of people with COVID,” says Baumgarten, M.D.

Plus, doctors say there are several people who come to the ER to simply get COVID tested. They’re asking those people to go to testing sites, instead of the ER.

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