Surge in hospitalizations puts strain on Arkansas hospitals

Published: Aug. 10, 2021 at 9:43 PM CDT
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CRITTENDEN COUNTY, Tenn. (WMC) - On Tuesdsay afternoon, health care officials reported just 12 ICU beds were available in Arkansas.

“Active cases are up and deaths are sad to see, 24 additional Arkansans,” said Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson who is battling a COVID-19 surge in his state.

Patients are checking into hospitals at double the national rate.

“You know we’re seeing high volume just like everyone else is in the area and the region,” said Brian Welton, CEO at Baptist Memorial Hospital Crittenden.

Welton says his hospital is ready and willing to handle a vast majority of patients that come through their doors. However, not having an intensive care unit during a new wave in the pandemic has been difficult.

“I mean yeah, it’s true, it’s been a challenge. We’ve had to look at transferring patients to Little Rock and our sister facility in Columbus, Mississippi, and elsewhere just to be able to find an ICU bed,” said Welton.

Welton says it also means longer wait times in the Baptist Crittenden emergency room for patients waiting for an ICU bed to become available in the Baptist hospital system.

Virtual care is playing a major role for patients as they wait for a bed to open up.

“Where we have nurses, doctors that are our eyes in the sky. So, we can manage ICU patients in our ED [emergency department]. They can see the patient in the room. They can watch their vital signs in real-time,” said Welton. “So, we have implemented a lot of technology to be able to make sure we’re caring for those patients,” said Welton.

While demand for medical care is high, Welton says the public can help relieve stress by only coming to hospitals for true emergencies, leaving non-emergent tasks like COVID-19 testing to your personal care doctor or urgent care center.

Health officials are encouraging everyone to get vaccinated.

Health officials say more vaccines mean fewer hospitalizations. Ninety-three percent of all hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Arkansas are unvaccinated.

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