2 Johnston County hospitals full as COVID-19 patients surge; staffing also impacted


SMITHFIELD, N.C. (WNCN) — Two hospitals in Johnston County have exceeded their patient limits because of COVID-19 cases — just as statewide numbers show hospitalizations hitting a new record high.

A spokesperson said Johnston Health Clayton and Johnston Health Smithfield have been at capacity for a few days due to high levels of COVID-19 patients.

The spokesperson said the hospitals combined have 199 beds but more than 200 patients for several days.

According to data from the state health department, at least 3,192 patients are currently hospitalized in North Carolina due to COVID-19 — an increase of 64 from Sunday’s previous record of 3,128. For the first time, the state’s seven-day rolling average in hospitalizations has topped 3,000, reaching 3,030 Sunday.

At the two Johnston County hospitals, more than 60 people are COVID-19 patients, according to Tom Williams the CEO of Johnston Health.

He says to help combat the capacity problem they are turning other rooms with space into areas for more beds. They’re also transferring patients to other hospitals when possible.

The hospitals are currently seeing up to 12 coronavirus patients a day. Both hospitals have stopped performing elective surgeries to free up extra staff and beds but the situation is still taking a toll.

Williams says the extra patients are also causing some other challenges.

“There’s a huge demand for staff right now we work with nursing travel agencies that can help us with that. But certainly with the demand there’s no question that more than having available beds that you could add on top is actually having the staff to staff those beds,” Williams said.

He says patients are not being turned away at the hospitals. But Williams said he is concerned the capacity problems will continue for some time following the Christmas and New Year holidays.

“The surge post-Thanksgiving is occurring right here as well. It’s been a long nine-plus months. The biggest challenge for our co-workers is where is that light at the end of the tunnel and I think these vaccines are that light,” Williams said.

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