Central NC hospitals brace for winter surge of COVID-19 cases

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WNCN) — As more and more people are being hospitalized with COVID19, doctors say resources are getting strained.

With the current surge expected to last several weeks, hospital officials say plans are in place to care for the influx of patients.

“We’re anticipating more volume and a higher number of patients coming through at least into February,” said Dr. Abhi Mehrotra, Vice Chair of UNC’s Dept. of Emergency Medicine.

Dr. Mehrotra says the increase in patients is putting a strain on staffing and beds, so the department is taking a proactive rather than reactive approach.

He says they have contingency plans for various scenarios based on what they learned fighting the virus last spring and summer.

“Right now, it’s asking folks that may not be scheduled to work to come in and work. For example, folks that may not typically work in the ICU setting to help out caring for a lower volume of patients,” Dr. Mehrotra said.

The president of Duke Regional Hospital, Katie Galbraith, say they too have plans already in place if they need to expand capacity.  For example, putting beds in units where patients would not normally stay.

“Taking care of patients in our post anesthesia care unit for example, rather than shifting them to our intensive care unit,” she said.

However, Galbraith, as well as state and health officials, says staffing is the major concern as the pandemic worsens.

“They are tired and I certainly worry about that.  We all worry about that, but they come in positive, ready to provide the very highest level of care,” said Galbraith.

Both Galbraith and Mehrotra say the most critical way hospitals can maintain capacity is for everyone to social distance, wear masks, and practice food hand hygiene.

“I know everyone is tired dealing with this pandemic, dealing with this virus.  I don’t know that it’s done dealing with us just yet.  The vigilance is still important,” Dr.  Mehrotra said.

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