Triangle hospitals make space for more patients as COVID-19 cases spike

Coronavirus

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — As the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in North Carolina surges past 2,000, hospitals in the Triangle are making space for more patients.

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According to data from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Resources on Tuesday there were 2,179 patients in the hospital, the most since Feb. 11 when there were 2,185 in the state.

Officials with Duke Health said they currently have 90 patients hospitalized with COVID-19, which is almost double the 52 hospitalized patients they were treating on July 29.

“We are right at capacity every day,” said Dr. Lisa Pickett, chief medical officer for Duke University Hospital in Durham. “We work to move patients around and help move them through.”

At Duke University Hospital, they are currently treating 49 COVID-19 patients, and 22 of those are in the intensive care unit.

Pickett said their emergency department was recently at capacity, so they set up triage tents to make more room for patients to be assessed before they are admitted.

She said they are not just seeing an increase in COVID-19 patients, but are also seeing an increase in patients coming in for other illnesses.

“We’re very full for trauma, for heart disease, and other illnesses,” Pickett said.

Pickett said there is a concern that as space runs out, surgical procedures could be delayed for some patients.

“We have not got to this point, but if things progress, that is a possibility,” Pickett said

UNC Health has also seen a rise in COVID-19 cases as they are now treating 260 patients who are hospitalized, which is an increase from the 150 patients the system was caring for on July 29.

Dr. Linda Butler is the chief medical officer at UNC Rex Hospital in Raleigh.

“Every bed is pretty much full,” Butler said.

Butler said they are also seeing a surge in both COVID-19 patients as well as patients who delayed care for other illnesses during the pandemic.

“People were not able to see their physician during the pandemic, when they finally did get to the hospital, they are sicker and they’re staying longer,” Butler said.

Butler said they do have an area set aside for overflow of patients, but she said they also need more staff to care for the additional patients that would stay in that space.

She and several other physicians in the Triangle are urging people in the community to get the COVID-19 vaccine, so that fewer people will end up in the hospital.

“Get the vaccine, that is one thing that could prevent COVID infection, and prevent you from spending time in our ICU,” Butler said.

Butler said 20 percent of their hospital staff positions are vacant, which adds another challenge to caring for the growing number of patients in their hospital.

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