COVID-19 hospitalizations exceed 3,000 in Louisiana.
In Louisiana, the COVID-19 outbreak has left hospitals on the verge of collapse.
The state now has the highest case rate in the country, and high hospitalization rates – more than 3,000 at the latest count – are straining the health system, with patients crowding intensive care units and staffing in short supply.
Dr. Jon Michael Cuba, service line chairman for emergency medicine at Ochsner Health in Baton Rouge, told that the hospital’s volume has been “outrageously high” during the last couple of weeks. “There was a boatload, a boatload of COVID. We are equipped to cope with this, but with the rise, there is a shortage of nurses, beds, and physicians to handle the assault of patients.”
Hospital admissions have increased by more than 340 percent in the previous month alone, despite a consistent increase in daily cases over the last seven weeks.
Louisiana’s predicament, exacerbated by the highly contagious delta strain, is paralleled in other Southern states with poor vaccination rates.
In Florida, more people are hospitalized than at any time throughout the epidemic, and Alabama has no residual ICU beds.
Less than 39% of Louisiana’s population is completely immunized. According to state data, nearly everyone presently hospitalized with COVID-19 in the state – 91 percent – is unvaccinated.
“We’re seeing individuals come in worse and sicker faster,” Dr. Ryan Richard, a pulmonary and critical care physician at Baton Rouge General Hospital, told, adding that “the great majority of them are unvaccinated.”
Hospitals facing a crisis
Hospitals around the state are trying to keep up with the pandemic’s fast evolution. Doctors stated that there is just not enough personnel to deal with the surge of COVID-19 patients on top of the non-COVID-19 patients, severely stressing the healthcare system.
“We are witnessing insanely high patient volumes,” Cuba stated.
At the beginning of July, Baton Rouge General Hospital was treating ten COVID-19 patients. There were more than 200 COVID-19 patients as of Wednesday.
Richard stated that the facility has reached a breaking point. “We do get individuals coming in to try to get into our hospital that we are unable to accept,” he explained, adding that they have been forced to refer patients to other institutions due to a lack of resources. “That’s difficult for us since we want to accept everyone possible and do everything possible, but we lack the necessary resources. It’s really aggravating.”
Due to the high volume of patients requiring treatment, particularly critical care, hospitals have been compelled to establish improvised intensive care units.
This Monday, Baton Rouge General Hospital launched its eighth COVID-19 room, including one in the hospital’s burn unit. Other hospitals around the state have converted endoscopy suites and other medical facilities into unconventional patient care spaces.
Additionally, emergency room wait times are rising, with critically sick patients forced to wait for care that was previously urgent.
“We are being crushed in our emergency departments, and our hospitals are at capacity,” Cuba stated. “There is a delay if someone comes in today with a heart attack. Something we are not accustomed to or comfortable with, but it is just overwhelming and a cold hard truth that hospital capacity is approaching capacity.”
Patients are becoming younger and more ill.
With more than 80% of Americans aged 65 and over completely immunized, the illness burden has moved disproportionately to younger Americans. As of Aug. 7, Americans aged 18 to 49 account for more than 40% of COVID-19 patients presently hospitalized across the country.
Dr. Abdul Khan, a pulmonary critical care physician in the COVID ICU at Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans, noticed that many of the patients admitted are younger and sicker. He recalled a 40-year-old father who informed personnel prior to being placed on a ventilator that he was the primary caregiver for his ten-year-old kid.
Additionally, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of younger people hospitalized.
“Another thing we didn’t see at first was parents seeing their children,” Khan added. “The prospect of visiting my children in the hospital is mind-numbing. And that is just what we are witnessing.”
Even more troubling, Khan continued, is the horrifying fact that “we are having talks with people’s parents about end-of-life care and similar topics.” These are not children; they are in their twenties and thirties, and the individuals by their bedsides are their parents.”
Jessica Cooper, 39, of Baton Rouge, is one of the patients at Baton Rouge General. She has been hospitalized with the illness for almost 12 days. Cooper, who was not vaccinated, told that she wanted to wait until after she underwent an impending operation before getting the injection.
Cooper told that the illness had worn her down to the point where each breath was a fight. At her most desperate, she had even prepared a goodbye note to her 11-year-old daughter in case she did not survive the hospital stay.
“I had prayed and reconciled with God. And began typing a text message to her, so that if anything happened to me and I didn’t make it, she would know I loved her,” Cooper explained, adding that this virus is “ageless, colorless — what you can do to defend yourself isn’t even about you; it’s about protecting others.”
Richard noticed that patients admitted to hospitals appear to be growing sicker, faster and that although the medical personnel could anticipate, to a degree, who would get sick and who would be most susceptible to the sickness during the first three waves of COVID-19, this is no longer the case.
“Every day, we’re duped for what we believed, and we’re seeing a lot of young individuals with no serious medical issues or it,” he explained. “I believed we’d reached a tipping point and were on our way out of this… but the delta has certainly thrown us a curveball.”
Overworked and overburdened hospital staff
The countrywide nursing deficit has also forced frontline employees to expand their teams’ duties in order to fulfill the requirements of all patients.
“There will never be enough nurses,” Khan stated. “Physicians are being reassigned. That is the severity of the patients and the rate at which they are being admitted. If we add five, ten, or fifteen additional nurses, there will be work for them. That is the number of patients admitted to the hospital.”
Additionally, teams are ultimately responsible for the physical and mental toll that another wave has imposed on the crew.
“We are already stressed out at work due to the additional hours spent covering the surge, and then you see your patients and are worried about what’s in the lobby, who’s in the ambulance, and am I going to be able to get this heart attack to the right place, will I be able to find a place for the patient to land? I am really concerned about our teams,” Cuba concluded.