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Deaconess reports being ‘extremely busy’ amid Delta surge

Published: Aug. 18, 2021 at 6:05 PM CDT
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EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - With an ongoing surge of the COVID-19 Delta variant, the Tri-State’s largest health system is holding up for the time being.

Deaconess Health System President Dr. James Porter says his hospitals are not full, but they are “extremely busy.”

He says it can all change by the hour: the number of hospitalizations, the number of COVID-19 patients in the ICU and the number of available beds.

At the peak of the pandemic, Dr. Porter says there were 157 coronavirus patients hospitalized across Gateway, Midtown and Henderson Hospitals.

On Wednesday, 132 COVID-19 patients were reported.

“Those are 132 beds that we, otherwise, would have had available if they weren’t filled with COVID patients,” says Dr. Porter. “So it does start to have an impact then on people with other conditions, because so many of our beds are taken by people who are here for COVID-19.”

According to Dr. Porter, 87% of those COVID-19 patients are not vaccinated.

“This is still, very much, a pandemic now of the unvaccinated with this surge,” says Dr. Porter.

He says that is why the health system could surpass its own COVID-19 hospitalization record.

“Historically,” says Dr. Porter, “the length of stay for COVID patients is pretty long.”

With more hospitalized patients comes an increased need for nurses - a lot of them, in fact.

“We would hire a lot of nurses, if we had the opportunity to do that,” says Dr. Porter.

The Deaconess employment portal shows of the 715 job postings, 212 are nurses.

“So that does mean that the nurses that we do have are taking up the slack,” says Dr. Porter. “It is being rough on them.”

Dr. Porter says there are a few things people can do to help lower the stress on the hospitals. He says the first get vaccinated.

He also asks people not to come to the ER for COVID-19 tests and suggests considering an express clinic, rather than the ER, for less severe-illness or injury.

With that in mind, Dr. Porter reiterated Deaconess is still more than capable of providing timely care for people experiencing other emergencies like heart attacks or strokes. He encourages people to call 911, if that’s the case.

However, he says people with less-severe conditions may experience a wait to get care during this demand.

On Wednesday, national health leaders announced plans to dispense COVID-19 booster shots to all Americans to up their protection against the Delta variant.

The plan is still awaiting approval from the Food and Drug Administration, but officials say it could roll out as soon as mid-September.

Dr. Porter says Deaconess is already working to make sure it is ready for the influx in vaccines. He says the goal is to keep the doses as distributed as possible, at places like express clinics, primary care offices and family pharmacies.

“We are hoping that maybe it doesn’t have to turn into long lines at mass vaccination sites,” says Dr. Porter, “as we continue to need to progress through this. If at some point, we realize that that’s the best way to get larger numbers of people vaccinated and then demand justifies it, we will look into doing some of those.”

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