NC hospital orders mobile morgue as COVID-19 deaths fill onsite morgue


RALEIGH, NC (WNCN) – Over the weekend, UNC Health Southeastern president and CEO posted photos showing the grim reality of the hospital’s COVID-19 situation.

“We’re seeing it be, what I consider, a crisis for our community,” said UNC Health Southeastern president Joann Anderson said.

In a Facebook post, Anderson reported the hospital’s ICU and designated COVID units are full. She said, “The ER is holding patients until a bed opens up by discharge to home or possibly to the mobile morgue.”

Anderson said the hospital was forced to order a mobile morgue because of the large number of COVID-19 deaths in a short period of time. Anderson told CBS 17 she expected the hospital would likely need to start using the mobile morgue in the coming week.

“It’s very frustrating. I’ve had several posts on social media recently. In one them, I even said I thought I was failing. I was failing the community. I was failing my team. I feel like I/m failing in my many ways,” said Anderson.

Right now, just 30 percent of Robeson County, where the hospital is located, is vaccinated. It’s the lowest vaccination rate in the state and continues to put residents at risk.

The hospital has 59 COVID-19 patients- the highest number they’ve had since March 2020. August also saw the largest number of COVID-19 deaths than any other month since March 2020.

Anderson said while they have had vaccinated people hospitalized, they have not had any admitted to the ICU or die from COVID-19.

“It’s saddening to know there are ways that we could lessen the severity of the COVID response,” said Anderson. She said the best ways are vaccination and masking.

Anderson said a South Carolina hospital asked if UNC Health Southeastern would accept transfers as they were at capacity. Anderson said she had to turn them down because UNC Health Southeastern is also running out of space.

“We have a spread that’s wild and we have a lot of people in the hospital,” Anderson said.

All of this is having an impact on hospital staff. Anderson said they’re plain exhausted after battling for 18 months.

“When you think about the ups and down, the emotion toll that it’s taking. The physical toll that it’s taking to put the equipment on to help a COVID patient- it’s just hard. It’s stressful for everybody,” Anderson said.

That stress carries over at home and in the public where staff still have to worry about getting infected. Anderson said over the course of the pandemic, 600 employees have had to quarantine due to exposure.

“It’s impacting us in so many ways,” she said.

Through all this, there are staff members still not vaccinated. Anderson said some have voiced concerns based on misinformation they’ve read online.

The executive leadership team is making themselves available to talk one-on-one or in small groups with staff about the vaccines this week. They hope to provide staff with scientifically-backed answers to their questions and hesitations. This comes ahead of the UNC Health’s vaccine mandate with a deadline of September 21.

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