COVID-19 surge has some central NC hospitals stretched thin again


RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Hospitalizations in North Carolina continue to rise. There are 1,580 North Carolinians in the hospital with COVID-19 — the most since late February, which was before the vaccine was readily available.

UNC Rex Medical Director Dr. Ryan Lamb said the hospital is struggling with daily volume, but it’s not due to COVID-19.

“We are at such a shortage that we’re actually at capacity, just not at a COVID capacity,” Lamb said.

He said there are enough beds, but not enough nurses to staff them.

“A COVID spike is going to very quickly put us over the edge if it happens and continues past what we’re seeing now,” Lamb said.

He said ICU capacity and ventilators are not an issue at this time. If trends continue, he said it’s likely the hospital will have to postpone elective surgeries.

The 115 new hospitalizations from Aug. 2-3 is the biggest one-day jump since January.​

At Duke Regional Hospital, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Adia Ross said the hospital isn’t seeing what it did during the winter surge. The hospital is seeing an uptick in illnesses not related to COVID-19.

“Dealing with our surge that is happening right now, which is part of our normal seasonal surge, on top of having COVID patients, does stress our systems,” Ross said.

Ross is asking people who have non-life-threatening injuries to go to urgent care or a primary care doctor and avoid the emergency room. Duke said if people suspect they have COVID-19, they should call their doctor or an urgent care clinic to schedule a test.

Ross said the hospital hasn’t had to make any adjustments yet. She said they’ve learned a lot since the pandemic about how to treat COVID-19 and run other services at the same time.

“I think we’re all just a little nervous about what the next couple of weeks could be, but I think we’re ready,” Ross said. “It’s a different type of nervousness in a sense that it’s not like we don’t know how to treat the patients, it’s not that we don’t have the protocols, I just think we’re hopeful that with the vaccine that people are really gonna do it because we’re just all a little nervous for those that are unvaccinated.”

Ross said most of the hospitalizations are for patients who are not vaccinated.

Both Ross and Lamb point to vaccinations as a way to stop the hospitalization trend.

Another central North Carolina hospital said they’re not yet making adjustments, either. Cape Fear Valley Medical Center said they have decided against postponing elective procedures that require an inpatient bed for the time being.

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