Local hospitals make room for more patients as COVID-19 numbers climb


(WAVY) — Hampton Roads is seeing record numbers of COVID-19 cases. A spokesperson for Riverside Regional Medical Center in Newport News told WAVY.com that patient numbers have nearly tripled compared to their levels before the holidays.

In Virginia Beach, an emergency department nurse posted her concerns on social media.

“I do not know of a single ER in our region that is not overflowing and overburdened… This does not happen when there are beds available in the hospital,” the nurse wrote.

Sentara’s Chief Physician Executive Dr. Jordan Asher told 10 On Your Side that “we are managing to the situation we have.”

Asher said they are moving patients to other hospitals when necessary and postponing some procedures.

Riverside is also making room, according to its President and Chief Operating Officer Dr. Mike Dacey.

“[Riverside] has delayed most elective inpatient procedures and we started this a week ago in order to free up hospital capacity for the almost tripling of COVID cases that we are now seeing compared to just before the holidays. We continue to perform outpatient procedures in our ambulatory centers and all urgent and emergent inpatient cases. We are adjusting on a daily basis in order to provide the optimal care for our patients,” Dacey said.

Yes, the numbers are high, but Asher said they can still care for all of the COVID-19 patients, as well as others who need care.

“Do I call the pandemic and where we are as a ‘crisis?’ In a big picture, absolutely… Am I having a crisis at my hospitals? No,” Asher said.

Statewide, we are nowhere near crisis mode when it comes to bed availability, according to numbers published on the Virginia Hospital and & Healthcare Association’s daily dashboard.

“We still have thousands of unoccupied beds but that’s not the big problem,” said VHHA spokesman, Julian Walker. “We have sounded the alarm on this for quite some time. Now that one real challenge is the availability of staff.”

Hospitals may not be overwhelmed, but individual staff members may be.

“[If] the number of patients you’re rounding on is more than you’re accustomed to, then that is absolutely going to feel like you’re slammed,” Walker said.

Asher told WAVY.com hospitals will continue to take steps needed to make room for patients as the weeks progress.

“I can’t predict what’s going to happen in three or four weeks if people don’t change their behavior,” Asher said.

That could include more postponed procedures or changes to visitation policies. He encourages people to continue to take precautions including, wearing masks and socials distancing as we wait for more people to get vaccinated over the coming months.

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