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New COVID-19 surge creates more stress on hospital staff

Published: Jul. 28, 2021 at 6:24 PM CDT
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OCEAN SPRINGS, Miss. (WLOX) - The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients is rising, the number of nurses is falling, and the concern about what’s next on the Coast is growing.

Singing River Health System is getting hit hard.

“It’s a surge,” said Lee Bond, Singing River Health System CEO. “It’s definitely a surge.”

Sixty-one patients are now hospitalized in its three hospitals in Gulfport, Ocean Springs and Pascagoula.

“Of the 61, I think we have 17 in ICU and about half of those are on a vent,” Bond said. “None of those people are vaccinated.”

A few weeks ago, there were only eight patients admitted.

The stress on staff is overwhelming.

“Tremendous. Tremendous,” said Beachell Bang Collins, a respiratory therapist. “I cannot express how hard it is. ... Exhausting, in one word.”

Bond said the pressure is leading to a reduced staff.

“If you could go with me and walk through the ER med surge or ICU and see what they are going through, you’d understand why only the toughest with the most grit are the ones who are hanging on,” he said. “Just yesterday, I had a conversation with a nurse who had tears in her eyes. She said ‘I intubated this patient - the seventh one in seven days - and the last thing she asked is ‘Am I going to live?’ "

He said it’s particularly hard for Mississippi hospitals to keep staff, particularly nurses.

“The challenge we have in Mississippi is a nurse can go and make three or four times what they make now in a neighboring state under a travel contract,” Bond said.

That’s why Bond and other health care administrators are asking state officials to share some of the federal assistance heading to the state next year through the American Rescue Plan.

“The state’s going to get $1.8 billion in federal assistance,” he said. “They’re talking about infrastructure and things. Why not allocate just 25% of that? That would be enough to give every bedside nurse in Mississippi $20,000 as a retention bonus to stay.”

In the meantime, Bond said, the best way out of all this is for people - who have no medical prohibitions - to get the vaccine.

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