Surge in hospitalizations across Triangle area leads to over-capacity hospitals, long waits


RALEIGH N.C. (WNCN) – More than 3,500 COVID-19 patients have been hospitalized across North Carolina, the most since mid-January.

But some major hospital systems in the Triangle say they are already seeing some of the highest hospitalization rates yet during the entire pandemic.

Doctors with Duke Raleigh, UNC REX, and WakeMed all came together Wednesday to discuss their capacity issues as COVID-19 cases surge and more non-COVID patients return.

“We have sicker patients coming in for all types of reasons, respiratory disease, heart disease, stroke, trauma, etc.,” said Dr. Seth Brody, chief physician executive at WakeMed.

The doctors said hospitals in the Triangle were already seeing more patients return with long-term health issues who did not seek out treatment during the pandemic.

But the surge in delta variant cases has compounded space constraints and stressed hospitals with ongoing staffing shortages.

“As numbers keep rising, which they currently are, you start to see where that just stretches more and more so that’s where we are currently,” Brody said.

WakeMed is currently treating around 200 COVID-19 patients. The cChief physician said 90 percent of those are unvaccinated.

UNC Rex is reporting around 520 patients total, both COVID and non-COVID and it’s a hospital with 439 beds.

“We will have more patients hospitalized than we did in January and February and we are going to have to care for those patients with less staff,” Dr. Linda Butler, chief medical officer at UNC REX Healthcare said. “Now we’re having higher ICU patients that even adds an extra burden.”

Duke Raleigh’s emergency director Dr. Timothy Plonk said people with immediate and life-threatening needs should still go to the hospital.

Others with less serious illnesses can call urgent care and primary care doctors first.

“The last thing I wanna do is to discourage anyone from seeking care. I think there are a lot of options out there,” Plonk said.

Plonk also said wait times are increasing for people to get a bed.

“Our wait times are higher than they’ve ever been at Duke Raleigh,” Plonk said.

Wake County EMS is also seeing an increase in calls. They are set to surpass 11,000 calls in August alone.

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