COVID-19 creates staffing, bed shortage at rural hospitals

GEORGETOWN, Ky. (FOX 56) – The surge in COVID-19 cases across the state has overwhelmed hospitals. And for smaller hospitals serving rural counties, the pressure is even greater.

The current occupancy rate in the country for inpatient hospital beds is 67%, and for ICU beds, the occupancy rate is even higher as there are fewer than 200 ICU beds available across the state.

WEDCO Department of Health Director Crystal Miller said: “We are facing very difficult times, our hospital admission rates are increasing daily.”

Nearly 90% of the state’s ICU beds are occupied, including nearly 500 beds currently being used for COVID-19 patients.

The rate is a challenge for all hospitals, but for small rural hospitals that already have limited beds, the rate could be crippling.

Saint Joseph Mount Sterling Hospital has 48 inpatient beds and 4 intensive care beds, which were recently increased to 6 to accommodate more patients.

President Jennifer Nolan said, “We have patients who have been hospitalized for long periods of time and need to go to the ward. Often times we try to pay attention to their comfort. It is not as comfortable to lie in an ed stretcher as in a bed. “

Hospitals are facing particular problems related to the increase in cases such as resource depletion, but the biggest challenge right now is staffing.

The WEDCO district health department includes Scott, Harrison, and Nicholas counties. The trio is cared for by 2 hospitals.

Miller added, “There is a shortage of medical staff. Healthcare workers quit their jobs because of burnout and a variety of problems. From this point of view, we are facing challenges that we did not face in March 2020. “

At Saint Joseph Mount Sterling, the hospital’s staff shortage is directly related to the virus itself. Nolan continued, “It primarily affected our employees that they tested positive or that their family members tested positive. And I think that this simply includes the time when people have to be away to take care of their families, close and close their daycare centers. “

Georgetown Community Hospital, Bourbon Community Hospital, and Clark Regional Medical Center, which also serve rural communities, all saw dramatic increases in COVID-19 patients over the past week. GCH posted an increase of 46%.

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