In response to a drastic increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations at Watauga Medical Center (WMC), Appalachian Regional Healthcare System (ARHS) is asking for the community’s help.
On Monday, December 7, WMC had almost 80% of its COVID-19 beds occupied. “It’s certainly alarming when 27 of 34 available COVID-19 beds are full,” said Rob Hudspeth, Sr. Vice President for System Advancement for ARHS. “This week we opened 10 new COVID-19 beds, but we are now concerned that even 34 may not be enough,” he added.
As COVID-19 hospitalizations increase, the impact has a rippling effect on all hospital resources. Although ARHS has been stockpiling supplies since January, drastic surges in COVID-19 hospitalizations have caused it to use PPE, equipment and supplies at a much faster rate.
At the same time, non-COVID-19 hospital admissions are also increasing because many people with chronic and acute conditions are delaying routine healthcare. “So often now, when patients arrive at the Emergency Department they are sicker and require hospitalization, which strains our resources even more. Obviously more people in hospital beds means our staff are working more shifts. Their commitment to caring for our community has been remarkable. But we all need to be really concerned that our front line staff doesn’t experience extreme fatigue and burnout,” he added.
Among the most concerning trends for ARHS is the number of hospitalizations across the region. Two critical elements of ARHS’s original surge plan involved using critical care contract staffing and transferring appropriate patients to other hospitals. However, regional conference calls with other healthcare systems this week have revealed that very few contract staffing opportunities exist and the ability to transfer patients is non-existent. “Given that other hospitals are experiencing similar surges, it will be difficult to hire contract labor or transfer patients. So we fully expect this to be a series of challenges we’ll have to solve on our own,” Hudspeth added.
What Can the Community Do to Help?
- Practice the 3Ws: Wear a mask, wash your hands often, and wait six feet apart.
- Manage your health: Take your medications and do not delay medical care.
- Get a flu shot to protect yourself and those around you.
- Exercise, get enough sleep and eat a healthy diet.
- Get a COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available.