Central North Carolina hospitals near capacity amid COVID-19 surge, worker shortage

Monday, August 30, 2021
Central NC hospitals near capacity amid COVID surge, worker shortage
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At Duke University Hospital, the ICU has been at or near capacity for about the last two months.

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- Hospitals across North Carolina are under pressure as COVID-19 cases surge and the number of healthcare workers to care for the sick is dwindling.

The percent of COVID-19 patients in hospital beds across the Triangle was two to three times higher on average each day last week than it was a month ago, according to updated data released Monday by the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services.

At WakeMed in Raleigh, the hospital was at 90 percent capacity with COVID patients taking up a quarter of adult beds and nearly half of the ICU beds, on average each day last week.

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Only four ICU beds were open daily on average last week, according to the DHHS data.

"Our emergency rooms and ICUs are essentially full," said Dr. David Kirk. "We have enough PPE, we can create more space, but our healthcare workers are our most critical resource right now."

Kirk said that WakeMed has been working to recruit more healthcare workers since the last COVID surge, but the system is struggling.

"Unfortunately, just a lot of people left healthcare after the last surge -- it was just too much for them," he said. "Now trying to recruit when there's just not as many people out there -- it's been incredibly difficult."

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At UNC in Chapel Hill, the hospital was at 86 percent capacity last week on average with COVID patients taking up 31 percent of ICU beds each day.

In Durham, at Duke University Hospital, no ICU beds were available on average each day last week; the ICU has been at or near capacity for about the last two months.

Last week, 25 percent of those patients either had a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19.

In light of the surge, Dr. Lisa Pickett said Duke is launching emotional support rounds this week to better care for their own staff.

"A team will go by our COVID units purely for their emotional support and are available also to do debriefs after particularly difficult events," said Pickett. "So our structure is to take good care of our patients and their loved ones but also to support our team members."