Area hospitals say COVID-19 surge could exceed hospitalizations from earlier this year

CAPE FEAR REGION, NC (WWAY) — As COVID-19 cases continue to rise, more people are ending up in the hospital with the new Delta variant of the virus.

Bladen County Emergency Management announced Friday that due to hospitals being at or near full capacity, people calling EMS may not be able to be transported to their preferred hospital.

Cape Fear Valley Bladen County Hospital has a 22-bed medical-surgical unit and a four-bed ICU. Hospital President and CFO Stephen Fife says all four ICU beds are occupied by covid patients. They have the capacity to take two on their med-surg unit, with one covid patient currently in the med-surg unit.

Fife says they have two “true-isolation” rooms on the med-surg unit where the air does not circulate through other patient rooms and areas of the hospital. The ICU beds are also classified as “true-isolation.” He says the recent surge can be credited to the new variant.

“The surges that we’re seeing in the past few weeks is definitely attributable to covid. Our percent positive is around 30-percent over the last few weeks,” Fife said. “The delta variant, it’s really been a game-changer for us. We’re seeing a lot of folks come in that are younger. In the beginning, we had a lot of older folks being hospitalized but we’re seeing them younger and younger here recently coming to the hospital.”

Though the numbers are rising, Fife says they do have room for people who come to the hospital seeking help for non-covid related emergencies as well.

Just across the county line at Columbus Regional, a spokesperson says they’re at 80 to 85-percent capacity and 30-percent of that is covid patients. Based on the emergency department volumes, they expect these numbers to increase.

A majority of those patients have not been vaccinated.

In New Hanover County, Assistant Health Director Carla Turner says just last week over 500 people tested positive for the virus.

“We have a way to address this but people aren’t taking advantage of it. That’s what’s frustrating,” Turner said. “We know that it works and we know that it’s not just going to go away on its own.”

According to the New Hanover Regional Medical Center COVID dashboard, 52 people are currently hospitalized.

A Novant Health spokesperson shared a statement that reads:

This is a critical time for our health care systems and for our communities. If current trends continue, we are on track to match or exceed the surge of COVID-19 cases our hospitals saw earlier this year — despite having safe and effective vaccines widely available.
Across our footprint, we are seeing a significant increase in COVID-19 cases, particularly in our hospitals that serve communities with lower vaccination rates. In fact, more than 90% of COVID-19 patients in our hospitals today are not vaccinated, and the average age of admitted patients is the lowest it has been since the pandemic started. At the same time, our emergency departments are seeing higher than usual summer volumes of patients seeking care for other health concerns.

While we’re concerned these increases could impact our staffing and bed capacity, Novant Health has extensive surge planning in place and stands ready to activate, as needed. It’s important for our communities to know that we have the continued ability to care for them, and that they should seek care when they need it.

It will take everyone doing their part to bring an end to this pandemic, which our health care workers have been on the frontlines fighting for 18 months. We urge everyone to get vaccinated. We also encourage all vaccinated individuals to follow updated CDC guidance to further protect themselves, and others, as the Delta variant continues to spread.

On a positive note, Turner says they’ve seen an increase in vaccinations. Last week, over 400 people got their first dose compared to 200 people the week before. While masking is helpful, Turner says your best protection against the virus is the vaccine.

“We have never had a vaccine in the history of vaccinations that gives a 100-percent guarantee that you will not get that communicable disease. What these vaccinations do is they give you a level of immunity that you wouldn’t have otherwise,” Turner said. “They decrease your chances of getting covid; but if you do get covid, they decrease your chances of severe illness, ending up in the hospital and dying.”

WWAY reached out to Dosher Memorial Hospital in Southport to find out their capacity levels, but they said they do not share that information with reporters.

Categories: Bladen, Brunswick, Columbus, Local, New Hanover, News, Pender, Top Stories

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