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‘Our situation is dire;’ Hospital leaders plead for help

Published: Aug. 12, 2021 at 5:28 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The rising number of COVID hospitalizations puts a massive strain on hospitals in the state.

“Our situation is dire,” said Dr. Yvens Laborde, medical director of global health at Ochsner Health.

“Our hospital’s systems are currently crumbling under the weight of COVID-19,” adds Dr. Shantel Hebert-Magee, Louisiana Health Department’s Region 1 Regional Medical Director.

“Our medical surge beds or our floor beds are full. Our ICU beds are full,” said Dr. Jeff Elder, the emergency management medical director at LCMC.

All three were present at a Jefferson Parish news conference where Parish President Cynthia Lee Sheng announced re-opening the Alario Center. Starting Monday, people can drive-thru for a COVID-19 testing site and walk-up vaccination location to help alleviate pressure on area hospitals.

“Our teams have been working very hard to help our medical community in any way we can,” Sheng said. “I know they’re tired and exhausted. Anything our resources can do to try and alleviate some of that pressure on our hospital systems we’re going to do that.”

The facility will operate on weekdays 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. and weekends 8 a.m. – 2 p.m..

“Let’s show our respect for these folks behind us and the people they work with,” Sheng said pointing to all three hospital leaders.

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The federal government sent additional disaster medical team, DMAT, health professionals to the area to help ease the strain. 24 DMAT professionals are at New Orleans’ Children’s Hospital.

On top of this, the state is reaching out to the Louisiana Volunteers in Action Emergency Volunteer (LAVA) according to the website it “works to recruit, credential, train, manage and deploy volunteers (medical and non-medical) to assist during emergencies and day to day activities by providing additional staff to meet health/medical surge needs.”

Dr. Hebert-Magee says these volunteers are typically retired doctors and nurses who chose to come back and support in times of crisis, “we try not to employ or deploy those workers except in case of emergency typically for hurricanes or emergency preparedness.”

More healthcare workers come as there’s a shortage of nurses, doctors, technical operators, and more. Across the Ochsner system Dr. Laborde says 500 employees are out, Dr. Elder says roughly 200 are out at LCMC all either with COVID-19 or in quarantine after close contact with a positive case.

Health leaders are all sounding the alarm as cases overwhelm hospitals preventing care for non-COVID patients.

“We know that our doctors are no longer serving in the clinics, they’re no longer doing elective procedures, they’re not putting in pacemakers or performing transplants because they’re needed to help with the burden of COVID-19,” explains Dr. Hebert-Magee.

Hospitals aren’t the only facilities seeing more people. Ochsner says more people are visiting its urgent care.

“We treated more than 38,000 in the urgent care centers in July, for the month of July,” said Dr. Laborde. “And we’re on track to treatment more than 45,000 patients this month.”

Parish President Sheng begged people to wear a mask and get vaccinated to help health care professionals.

“That we’re able to live with this horrible virus doing something as simple as wearing a mask. I would never understand why this is such a big deal given the situation we’re in where our hospitals are bursting at the seams. I will never get that,” Sheng said. “I know they’re tired and exhausted. Anything our resources can do to try and alleviate some of that pressure on our hospital systems we’re going to do that.”

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