Lexington Medical Center says staff stretched thin by rising cases, frustrated by lack of vaccinations

Lexington Medical Center says staff stretched thin by rising cases, frustrated by lack of vaccinations
Published: Aug. 25, 2021 at 9:41 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, S.C. (WIS) - Lexington Medical Center has a stark warning for the Midlands, cautioning people that if they get in a car crash, have a heart attack, or experience a medical emergency, they should expect to have to wait in the emergency room for care because the staff is so stretched thin by COVID cases that keep rising.

“We’re going to do everything we can, but our waits are much longer than we would want them to be, much longer than you or I would want them to be. We’re trying our best, but it is incredibly difficult,” Lexington Medical Center’s president and CEO, Tod Augsburger, said.

On Wednesday, there were more COVID patients at Lexington Medical Center than at any other point during the pandemic, 192 of them, about 85% of whom were unvaccinated.

Out of the 50 COVID patients in intensive care, the hospital reported about 88% of them were unvaccinated.

Those patients are in addition to all the other patients in the hospital who are being treated for something other than COVID.

“This is the most challenging, difficult time for our caregivers that they’ve ever had in their careers, by far,” Augsburger said.

It’s also a time he said they did not expect to be so challenging, not at this point, with a vaccine readily available.

“Now we have an opportunity to help stop this, and we’re not. So it’s increasingly frustrating for nursing and caregivers and doctors and respiratory therapists, who say, ‘We will do everything we can for you, but could you help?’” Augsburger said.

Augsburger said the hospital is taking steps to free up staff, who are already stretched thin, to care for these patients.

That includes, but isn’t limited to, transferring patients to other hospitals, temporarily shutting down Lexington Medical Center’s surgery center in Irmo, and significantly reducing in-patient surgeries at the West Columbia hospital.

“We’re finding ways to get through this, but if it keeps going up, that won’t be possible,” Augsburger said.

He said the staff is also delaying needed procedures, like open-heart surgeries.

“It’s causing our doctors to have to triage, ‘Who, in all likelihood, may not make it until tomorrow, and we have to do their surgery today?’” Augsburger said. “They’re making those decisions every day.”

Meanwhile, he said more sick patients, largely unvaccinated, are coming to the hospital, and more people are dying — 28 COVID patients at Lexington Medical Center in just the last two weeks.

Augsburger said while their staff isn’t overwhelmed yet, they’re close.

“Every day, these folks come here. They get up. They kiss their families goodbye. They come and put themselves at risk to help our community. It’s time our community helps them,” he said.

Lexington Medical Center’s vaccine clinic at 139 Summerplace Drive in West Columbia is providing COVID vaccines for free seven days a week Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Augsburger said they have seen very few complications from the vaccine.

“There’s nobody in the hospital today who’s there because of the vaccine. There’s nobody who’s died here because of the vaccine,” he said. “But that’s happening all day long with people who have COVID. This is real. We need your help.”

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