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TMH's COVID-19 Wing Is Full As More Patients Require Hospitalization

 As more coronavirus patients need hospital care, it's stretching resources thin. COVID-19 patients require more care than a typical hospital patient and there aren't enough nurses to do around, that's led TMH officials to get creative with staffing.
As more coronavirus patients need hospital care, it's stretching resources thin. COVID-19 patients require more care than a typical hospital patient and there aren't enough nurses to do around, that's led TMH officials to get creative with staffing.

As of Monday afternoon, about 70 patients were receiving coronavirus care with Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare. That’s double the number of patients the hospital’s COVID wing was designed to handle.

“We’ve now exceeded the capacity of our original wing," said Ryan Smith, Chief Clinical Officer at TMH. "We’re creating an additional floor that would take the lower acuity COVID patients that are more stable and then the traditional COVID wing we have used will be the medium level of care for these COVID patients."

An Influx Of COVID-19 Patients Is Stretching Hospital Staff Thin. Now Some Workers Are Pulling Double Duty.

Smith says the current hospitalization rate is the highest he’s seen at TMH during the pandemic. Since COVID-19 patients require more care than a typical hospital patient, that's forcing hospital officials to get creative with staffing. Some team members who usually don’t work directly with patients, but have the necessary skills, are returning to “bedside” work.

“So [we’re asking] individuals such as leaders, patients navigators, educators, advisors, to pick up a shift at the bedside to help augment our staff to make sure we have adequate resources to care for the COVID patients during the influx, and the spike, and to make sure that our staff do not burn out,” Smith says.

Dr. Thomas Noel chairs the cardiology division at TMH. He says those factors are combing with staffing shortages many hospitals were facing before the pandemic began to create a cascading effect.

"The amount of people that are able to work and provide care, such as nurses and technicians were really limited from the beginning since the population has gotten older," Noel says. "When you combine that issue with the fact that it requires much more nursing hours to provide care to COVID patients, that has stripped our ability to provide patient procedures with the amount of nursing and clinic support that we have.”

Noel says most elective procedures for patients who aren’t facing an emergency, are indefinitely delayed. That's impacting their quality of life. And Noel says he hopes community members understand, even if they're not directly impacting by COVID, their family members could be.

"I think the community thinks in the context of COVID and their own personal self and their family, but what we're trying to communicate to the community is that because our vaccination rate is not where it needs to be and people aren't being vaccinated, that may not directly impact them, but it's probably impacting their family's ability to come in and get the healthcare they need for non-COVID-related issues," Noel says.

"It's also impacting the ability of family to come in and see their family members in the hospital that are having non-COVID-related healthcare problems."

Smith says one reason for such high numbers of people requiring treatment in the hospital could be that each person who is admitted is tending to stay longer and is receiving more intense care. He says that has to do with the virus attacking younger and healthier people.

“In theory you may have a healthier immune system in these individuals now. Before when it was attacking your elderly population you didn’t have that immune response,” Smith says.

Doctors say while earlier in the pandemic the people who were admitted for coronavirus care were typically seniors, now most of the hospitals patients are between 20 and 60 years old. The vast majority are unvaccinated.

Both Noel and Smith are urging more people to get vaccinated. Healthcare experts say that’s how things will start returning to normal.

"If you do not become vaccinated as a community, we are destined to stay in this perpetual state of changing variants and continued usage of masks, which I think is what's causing such fatigue across our community," Noel says. "So if we want life to return to 'normal,' it is going to require all of us taking that very tiny leap of faith that the vaccine will work as it has for many other disease processes and we will continue to be safe long-term."

Noel says there's a lot of "misinformation" about the available coronavirus vaccines. He urges anyone who has a question about getting vaccinated to talk to a doctor.

Copyright 2021 WFSU