‘We are tired of seeing people die’: Orangeburg doctor warns hospital is almost full

Updated: Jan. 12, 2021 at 10:21 AM EST
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ORANGEBURG, S.C. (WIS) - The hospital capacity concern in South Carolina continues to grow as some doctors and nurses warn they are running out of bed space.

In Orangeburg, hospital capacity has climbed to 92.6%, with Regional Medical Center staff saying every COVID unit is essentially full.

“We’re now probably triple the number of patients that we had had two weeks ago,” said 23-year doctor and RMC chief of staff, John Samies.

RMC was one of the first hospitals in the state to set up a field hospital in July. While it hasn’t been used yet, Dr. Samies says even if they needed the space, they don’t have the staff to man it.

“We’re having to pull people from areas that don’t typically do hands-on daily care and asking them to do more hands-on daily care than they are used to,” Samies explained.

Right now, RMC says it’s at the point where they are having to make decisions about sending patients home earlier than they would like. They’re also having to decide who gets an ICU bed, and patients are having to wait in the emergency room longer because they just don’t have the bed space.

“This is for real, with people gasping for breath, people who are younger than I am gasping for air,” Samies tearfully explained. “There are people in their 20s and 30s hoping that they’ll see tomorrow. I’ve never seen anything like this and hope I never do again.”

He says nurses and doctors aren’t just tired from the long hours.

“They are tired of seeing people die,” said Samies. “They’re tired of seeing people who come in and had futures and then no longer are with us. It’s something that brings you to tears.”

In Laurens County, Mayor Nathan Senn says Prisma Health’s ICU beds are full, and they’re on the verge of a field hospital situation.

“We can’t deny the reality that some dangerous behavior has caused a spike in infection that’s led to a strain on our healthcare system that we just can’t afford,” said Senn.

While these hospitals race to keep our sick alive, they’re also responsible for administering hundreds of COVID vaccines to help put an end to the virus that’s taken so much.

“Please help us all get through another couple of months,” Samies pleaded.

So far, Regional Medical Center has vaccinated 540 staff members, but the hospital doesn’t have the ability to store the Pfizer vaccines at the necessary ultra-cold temperatures, so they are only receiving a small number of frozen doses at a time. They say this is causing a delay and they have not been able to begin vaccinating patients.

Because Orangeburg is a rural area, Samies says the patients they are seeing often lack access to health care and have put off coming to the hospital. He says this means they are even sicker when they arrive.

RMC doctors and nurses urge everyone to wear a mask and social distance so they can continue to save lives.

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