COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - One of the biggest fears of local, state, and national leaders since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic has been overwhelming our healthcare systems.
South Carolina is seeing more than one thousand COVID-19 patients in the hospital right now, but experts say that number could go even higher. “We knew it was coming, but it’s striking how many patients we are seeing and getting,” said Prisma Health doctor Helmut Albrecht.
On Monday, hospitalization rates averaged just under 80% in South Carolina, but Dr. Albrecht believes that number will grow as we have not yet seen the impact the last four days of 2,000 plus cases will have on our hospitals. “Certainly, other states have shown we can overwhelm very functional healthcare systems,” he explained.
Albrecht says nurses and doctors are worn out. “The level of frustration and the level of fatigue is high,” Albrecht explained. “It’s not easy to lose patients, and we are losing patients because there are so many of them.”
COVID-19 treatments like remdesivir, steroids, and convalescent plasma have been successful at reducing patients’ time in the hospital, according to Prisma Health, but these treatments aren’t limitless. “The numbers theoretically can get there where we will not have enough medication for everyone,” said Albrecht.
In Richland County, hospitalizations are high at 76%, but the Upstate is Prisma’s concern, as their total COVID-19 patients have doubled.
In Lexington County, WIS received reports of Lexington Medical Center reaching full capacity, but hospital spokeswoman, Jennifer Wilson, says that is not true and sent us a statement saying in part, “We will continue to assess our capability to open additional beds to meet the healthcare needs of our patients.” Wilson also explained the hospital’s new patient care tower has the capability to turn any room into a negative pressure room with the flip of a switch. She says that technology can create additional space for doctors to take care of COVID-19 patients.
But the big concern is staffing and whether hospitals will have enough doctors and nurses to meet patient demand. “It’s essentially nurse numbers, which is going to be the limiting factor,” said Dr. Albrecht. With the first doses of a vaccine set to roll out in hospitals this month, he’s urging everyone to buckle down. “We really need to come together and do the right things, or we won’t have enough providers to take care of the people that come in.”
Dr. Albrecht says every person infected with COVID-19 who does not get tested or isolate will result in 400 additional infections over a 30-day period. That’s why he’s urging everyone to wear your mask, social distance, and get tested this holiday season to help protect yourself and those you love.
COVID-19 is the leading cause of death in the U.S. right now, according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. The institute’s model projects daily deaths in our country will peak at 3,000 in mid-January.