Hospitals grapple with COVID surge

About 86 percent of the 56,172 inpatient hospital beds in Florida were occupied earlier this week as the state continues to struggle with a surge in COVID-19 cases, according to data updated by the federal Department of Health and Human Services. 

Of the 48,414 beds in use, 15,449 were occupied by patients with COVID-19, the data reported by hospitals show. Meanwhile, 41 hospitals across the state reported to the federal government that they had critical staffing shortages. 

Also, 56 hospitals reported that they expected to face critical staffing shortages within the next week. The increases in hospitalized patients have been caused by the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus sweeping across the state. 

Florida had a reported 24,753 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, according to data posted Wednesday on the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. It had a seven-day “moving” average of 21,156 new cases.

Here at home, the Florida Department of Health reports there have been 2,773 cases in Holmes County with a 26.1 percent new case positivity rate. About 28 percent of the countyÂ’s approximate 20,211 population has been vaccinated.

Doctors Memorial Hospital currently is hovering around capacity almost daily.

“We are definitely feeling the strain of the Covid surge,” said Warren Bailey, DMH Director of Pharmacy and Infection Control on Monday.

“Our emergency room volumes are up, patient census is up, and the overloaded ICUs at larger hospitals means we can’t always transfer patients in a timely fashion.”

“This is especially sad because the vast majority of those hospitalized are unvaccinated,” he added.  

The FDOH reports that Holmes County has the lowest number of COVID-19 vaccinated residents in the state.

Bailey went on to say a surge in COVID cases means a strain on other services as well.

“Surgeries, cardiac procedures, cancer treatments, diagnostic studies, etc. are all being delayed because there are simply no beds available,” he noted.  

Bailey went on to praise the DMH staff who have worked tirelessly to combat the strained conditions.

“I am so proud of those in our staff that have stepped up to serve our community,” he said.  “They are fighting physical and emotional exhaustion to work the extra shifts necessary to cover the workload.  Housekeeping, dietary, nursing, radiology, lab and the providers have all pitched in to help shoulder the burden.”

DMH is still offering COVID-19  testing from 8 a.m. until noon on weekdays.  

“We encourage the public to be tested when you have symptoms and know that outcomes are better the earlier you seek treatment,” urged Bailey. “Vaccinations are available at local pharmacies, and we encourage all who are eligible to receive a vaccine.”

Florida Department of Health reports there are 3,193 cases in Washington County with a 23.7 percent new case positivity rate. 7,456 of the countyÂ’s approximate 25,397 population has been vaccinated.

Northwest Florida Community Hospital is also facing capacity almost daily.

“This surge has put a strain on us again. We are many days at capacity as far as the number of patients we can take,” said NFCH CEO Michael Kozar on Friday. “Our ER volumes are up 52 percent from where they were last year at this time. You couple that with the shortages that we’re seeing with staffing, and it really has put a strain on the organization, but our team here has been outstanding. They have really stepped up and have been handling this recent surge.”

Kozar states the hospital has resumed drive-thru testing from 10 a.m. to noon on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. 

“We continue to urge everyone to get vaccinated,” added Kozar. “Our vaccination clinic is open on Saturdays at Express Care in Chipley.”