SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – Help has arrived for some Northwest Louisiana hospitals straining under the surge of COVID patients, and more help is on the way as hospitalizations continue to rise.
As of Tuesday, there were 300 COVID patients in Region 7 hospitals, with 43 on ventilators, taking up 213 of the region’s 246 ICU beds and leaving 33 beds available. The region is faring better than others around the state. Regions 3 and 4, in the Thibodeaux and Lafayette areas, had just three ICU beds each as of Tuesday. Region 5 in Southwest Louisiana had five ICU beds.
But as cases continue to surge, hospitalizations across the state have continued to rise sharply since early July, surpassing the previous all-time high of 2,069 reached on January 7, 2020 with 2,112 on August 2 and continuing to set new records every day since.
There are currently more than 2,895 people hospitalized statewide.
“The most disheartening thing is so much of this could be prevented if we were able to get people vaccinated,” said Knox Andress, designated coordinator for the Louisiana Department of Health Region 7 Hospital Healthcare Coalition.
Andress says hospitals have contingency plans for preserving capacity that include moving patients to other facilities, postponing certain procedures, and delivering care in alternative locations, such as a conference room, hospital auditoriums, or even in tents outside hospital emergency departments.
The strain is not only on spae and beds, but staffing, and area hospitals are seeking help from all over the U.S. CHRISTUS Highland Medical Center asked for and received federal medical staff support on Monday night. Paramedics have come from states like Arkansas, Illinois, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Virginia, Kansas, Maryland, and Georgia, to help out.
According to Andress, the federally deployed medical staff will be reimbursed by FEMA, or by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
“There’s a huge need throughout the state for this. The resources are scarce, but we feel very blessed to have been giving the medical personnel to help us, ” said Dr. Steen Trawick, CEO of CHRISTUS Shreveport-Bossier Health System.
Warner Thomas, the president, and CEO of Ochsner Health said Ochsner has also been deploying nurses to support in ICU, medical assistants to help nursing aides, adding “all hands are on deck to try to pull this together.”
“We’re going to have to keep people deployed until we get through the peak of the surge. If it keeps escalating, we probably will have to redeploy more people,” he said.
Contingency plans also include postponing certain medical procedures and surgical cases, which leaves non-COVID-19 patients with a disadvantage. First responders are triaging patients in the field, but Andress says hospitals are still taking patients as they come. The wait, however, would just be a bit longer.
Andress said getting monoclonal antibody therapy is another way to preserve hospital capacity, and hospitals like Willis Knighton, CHRISTUS Highland Medical Center, Ochsner LSU Health Shreveport, Minden Medical Center, and other hospitals in Northwest Louisiana, have all started administering monoclonal antibody therapy to people who have tested positive.
Monoclonal antibody therapy, typically Regeneron, is said to lower the risks of hospitalizations and deaths if doctors treat these COVID-19 patients in a timely manner.
Above all, the simplest way to reduce hospital capacity, is to just get vaccinated, Andress said.