LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY) – Local health officials say the current COVID surge is creating a dire situation by placing the entire health care system under tremendous strain and stress.
It is creating a crisis for health care providers, and it’s only getting worse. Hospitals, clinics, and emergency medical services are facing a harsh reality.
According to the Louisiana Department of Health, approximately 1,400 hospital beds are in use in Acadiana. 159 ICU beds are in use. Roughly one-third of all patients at Ochsner Lafayette General, and half of all patients at Our Lady of Lourdes, are being treated for COVID-19.
At Lourdes, the hospital is near crisis level, which means 65% or more of the total inpatient capacity is dedicated to COVID. They’ve doubled ICU capacity to more than 48 beds by taking over an entire medical floor.
There are also record numbers of people coming into the emergency room, mostly for COVID testing. They’re prioritizing those with COVID symptoms.
“The nursing ratios will have to be dramatically different, the response time will be different, allocation of additional resources will be different,” said Dr. Henry Kaufman, Our Lady of Lourdes Interim Chief Medical Officer. “Nobody wants to go there. But I’m afraid that’s as much as the system can handle and we are rapidly approaching it.”
It’s just as challenging at Ochsner Lafayette General, where they’re seeing more COVID patients under the age of 40. The average age of patients who die from the virus is now 54. Plans are being made for a team to come in, with federal help, to open more beds inside the hospital.
“COVID patients just don’t go home as soon as isolation is over,” said Dr. Amanda Logue, Ochsner Lafayette General Chief Medical Officer. “Those patients are still in the hospital. They don’t have a place to go yet.”
Hospitals in Acadiana nearing crisis level are now impacting ambulance service. Overloaded hospitals impact unloading times significantly for emergency medical transport. This means there are fewer ambulances in the field to respond to emergencies.
Acadian Ambulance has seen a 30% increase in the volume of calls, primarily due to COVID. Up to 40% of patients transported are COVID positive.
“Nobody wants to give anything less than 100% than we are used to giving to all of the patients and the communities that we serve, but when we have to make decisions over resource allocation, over prioritization of medical condition, those types of things, that’s when our back is against the wall, and none of us as clinical providers want to go there,” said Dr. Chuck Burnell, Acadian Ambulance Medical Director.
There’s talk of implementing “no transport criteria” when they are unable to maintain normal standards of care. This means evaluating patients in the field and deciding to transport them to the hospital or treat them on-site.
It’s also become very difficult to transfer patients to other hospitals for treatment because hospitals don’t have the staff or capacity to take them. 70% of all patient transfers are being turned away at Ochsner Lafayette General.