ATLANTA (NewsNation Now) — Hospitals across the South are in crisis mode, with ICU beds dwindling and hospital staff spread thin.
“Our staff are burnt out,” said Anna Adams, the senior vice president of external affairs at the Georgia Hospital Association. “They have been working long hours for more than a year.”
As the highly contagious delta variant continues to spread, some states are seeing COVID-19 hospitalizations approaching previous highs.
In metro Atlanta, the four major hospital systems are all near or at intensive care unit bed capacity. They are now diverting emergency room patients because they simply don’t have the space to treat them.
“That means that if you have a car wreck, or if you have a heart attack, any of the normal things that hospitals are there to make sure they take care of, you’re going to have to wait longer,” Adams said. “You may have to go to a different facility that’s not as close by.”
The situation is even more dire in Mississippi, where the state has completely run out of ICU beds.
“There are physical places to put patients,” said Richard Roberson, the vice president of state policy at the Mississippi Hospital Association. “The problem is you can’t put patients there if you don’t have a caregiver to take care of them.”
Roberson says a depleted workforce is partly to blame.
“We have approximately 1,500 to 2000 fewer nurses than we had a year ago,” Roberson said.
In neighboring Louisiana, the state is now relying on federal help to staff its hospitals.
Texas is bringing in healthcare workers from out of state.
Houston, known for its massive network of hospitals, only has only 27 ICU beds left. Some health systems there have started setting up COVID-19 overflow tents.
Two other emergency rooms in central Texas have shut down completely and transferred staff to help out at other locations.
Further north in Arkansas, the state has just one ICU bed left.