Ochsner Health CEO on COVID-19 surge: “We’re worried”


LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY) – Louisiana’s largest health care system is strongly suggesting everyone get vaccinated against COVID-19, now that the Delta variant is propelling a surge in new cases. Officials at Ochsner Health say the surge is creating a staffing shortage, as the number of cases keeps climbing.

“We’re worried,” said Warner Thomas, president and CEO of Ochsner Health. “We have to understand now we are getting to the point with this surge that it’s starting to impact other people’s medical care.”

There are currently 548 COVID-19 patients at Ochsner hospitals in Louisiana. That’s a 700% spike compared to one month ago. 90 of those patients are in the Lafayette area, nearly double from last week.

“We can prevent people from getting Covid right now, if we can get more people vaccinated,” said Thomas.

This surge is praying on the unvaccinated. 88% of Covid patients at Ochsner have not had the shot. And it’s hitting a younger age group. 40% of patients are age 50 or younger.

“I know you’ve heard it over and over and over, and I feel like people are tired of it,” said Dr. Katherine Bumgarten, medical director of infection control and prevention. “We continue to see people in the hospital that have not gotten vaccinated.”

“Here we have the technology that’s many years in the making for a safe vaccine,” said Dr. Robert Hart, chief medical officer. “There’s a hesitancy that’s baffling to many.”

What’s just as troubling, hospital officials say several hundred employees are under quarantine. Approximately 60% of employees at Ochsner are vaccinated. Hospital officials believe that’s due to widespread misinformation about the vaccine, and it’s causing staffing challenges.

“The misinformation is dangerous. It literally is dangerous,” said Thomas.

If the surge continues, officials say Ochsner hospitals will be forced to modify surgery schedules in New Orleans and Lafayette.

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