La. health officials paint grim picture of the strain COVID has put on hospitals

Published: Aug. 11, 2021 at 10:43 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Health officials painted a grim picture Wednesday of the strain COVID-19 has put on hospitals across Louisiana.

“We’ve never been in this time or place in healthcare in my career and in most physicians’ careers in this hospital,” said Dr. O’Neal.

Dr. Joseph Kanter called the current hospital situation “catastrophic” for those already overrun with COVID-19 patients that are increasingly having to turn away people with other life-threatening emergencies such as heart attacks or strokes.

O’Neal said they aren’t turning around anybody at the moment at OLOL, but people should still be concerned.

“We are starting to feel like we’re not giving our standard of care, inadequate care because we stretched so thin from the number of people coming in.”

The problem is the delta variant has made it hard to determine when things will get better, and experts believe we’re weeks away from its peak.

“I would, as a person who has medical problems, be nervous about what kind of care you’re going to experience if you come to a hospital within the next month,” said O’Neal.

Hospitals like Ochsner Health triage patients as they come in the emergency room, but covid makes things even harder.

“The patients are categorized depending on the severity of their illness and their condition,” said Dr. Aldo Russo.

Dr. Russo said they’re making sure they get to each person, but with limited beds they’re having to send doctors to start treatment in the ER while they wait for an open room.

“They are going down to the emergency room while the patient is waiting to begin treatments and institute therapies that are needed to manage those patients,” said Dr. Russo.

Back at OLOL, Dr. O’Neal said 50% of their beds are filled by unvaccinated people under the age of 50. To make matters worse, they have 29 people waiting for an ICU bed to open up.

“If you’re in an ER outside of our ER waiting for that bed, the answer is you’re never coming. We won’t be able to get to you because our ER keeps filling up with the same people who need the bed and they’re downstairs so we’re going to move them faster. If you’re waiting, you may wait. You may wait and you may die in that bed. That’s where we are today,” said Dr. O’Neal.

Dr. O’Neal said they will do everything in their power to treat their patients – but she says unless people get vaccinated, more people will die.

“We will refuse to make decisions about who lives or dies. That will have to be for somebody else. We will continue to see every patient as they come in and take care of the sickest, and the only way to stop the train we’re on is to get vaccinated. If we don’t, when we reach that point, you will watch medical care unravel in this city,” said Dr. O’Neal.

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