COVID-swamped AU Health puts some surgeries on hold

Published: Aug. 18, 2021 at 11:26 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Augusta University Health is “essentially functioning in a triage and disaster mode” as hospitals fill with new COVID patients.

AU Health is putting many elective surgeries on pause.

University Hospital is also evaluating and delaying some elective procedures requiring an overnight stay, as well. They tell us it’s due more to a shortage of nurses than it is having the beds available for patients.

At last check, AU Health has 98 patients in the hospital with COVID and 10 of them are kids.

University Hospital reporting 110 patients hospitalized with the virus. And 10 are on ventilators. University says unfortunately one of the patients on a ventilator did get the vaccine, the first vaccinated patient they’ve had to ventilate.

Over at the Charlie Norwood Veterans Affairs Medical Center, they have 18 people with COVID. Half of them are currently in the ICU.

Dr. Phillip Coule, chief medical officer of AU Health System, describes the hospital as being in crisis mode. He says this surge is different because now as we move back toward normal, demands for basic health care and trauma care are back on top of the surge of cases.

“The level that were at were essentially functioning in a triage and disaster mode and that it is starting to impair the care of routine health care,” said Coule.

This surge is not just impacting patients with COVID.

“The biggest concern is that we still haven’t caught up from the last couple of waves so we still have people who have deferred routine cancer screenings, have put off surgeries put off mammograms their routine health care,” he said.

AU Health will prioritize any surgery where a delay would be harmful to the patient and those that do not require inpatient beds. But the rest will likely have to wait. Balancing normal health care, trauma patients and this surge puts a major strain on our health care workers.

“They’re tired, they’re frustrated by the disinformation that is being continually spread about the vaccine as well as the disease, and to be honest, it’s a bit demoralizing because we see what is happening,” he said.

As the emergency department overflows with more patients than open beds, they’re exploring their disaster plan where an area in their family medicine clinic will be additional emergency department space.

“We do not have any more physical space to put patients,” said Coule.

Coule says he hopes that it doesn’t come to the point where they have to use those disaster measures but it’s a possibility they want to be prepared for.

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