’Hospital is full’ as OLOL cuts non-emergency procedures to free up staff in fight against COVID-19

Updated: Jul. 23, 2020 at 7:34 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Our Lady of the Lake’s intensive care unit (ICU) is at max capacity and now, hospital executives are looking for ways to meet the increasing demand of COVID-19 patients.

On any given day before the pandemic struck, Chief Operating Officer Stephanie Manson says the hospital’s ICU could handle approximately 70 patients, with the possibility of surging up to 80 during peak times. As it stands Thursday, July 23, the ICU has 124 patients, 40% of which have COVID-19.

The beds and supplies are not the problem plaguing hospital staff though. Chief Medical Officer Dr. Catherine O’Neal says staffing the hospital and having enough nurses available to treat the patients is the real issue.

“I can find a bed for you, but what we’re lacking now is staff,” Dr. O’Neal said. “As those numbers creep up, and COVID care is such intense care and you often need one-on-one nursing, so I can’t have a nurse taking care of three patients. I have a nurse taking care of one patient at a time, which means we’re running out of nursing care, we’re running out of respiratory therapists to help those patients, so we’re stretching that care to make it work.”

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During an update on the hospital’s status, Dr. O’Neal said the makeup of patients ranges from a 25-year-old with no preexisting conditions to a 65-year-old. She says patients come from every community, every demographic, and that “we are all possible patients of COVID in this hospital and I don’t have a bed for you right now.”

To help free up staff to meet the demand, OLOL has paused all non-emergency procedures for the next two weeks. The idea is this will free up the staff needed to handle the surge of COVID-19 patients.

“It is absolutely the physician’s decision with the patient, so if for some reason your physician will have a conversation with you about if you can delay the procedure. Will this be harmful? And will be a decision that you make together on the case being cancelled or not?” Dr. O’Neal said.

Dr. O’Neal was careful to note anyone with an emergency can still come to OLOL and be treated; only non-emergency procedures that require an overnight stay in the ICU will be affected.

“We absolutely have a team that’s going to meet every emergent condition and we’re going to stabilize that condition, but you may be waiting in the emergency room for that care,” she said. “You’ll be in the emergency room for what we consider a prolonged period of time and not quality care where you have to sit in the emergency room instead of getting a bed.”

Dr. O’Neal says now that the hospital is at capacity, it’s up to the public to mitigate the spread of the virus. She urges everyone to abide by social distancing guidelines, mask up, and avoid unnecessary trips that would potentially expose them or someone else to the virus.

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