With Sampson County hospital full, some ICU patients with COVID-19 spill over to the ER

CLINTON, N.C. (WTVD) -- The Delta-variant surge is swiftly filling ICU beds at Sampson Regional Medical Center, which means there is no place for COVID-19 patients to go. According to hospital officials, its ICU has been full for a month. Emergency room nurses are treating patients in critical condition from the ER.

"They are forced to take care of ICU-level patients who would be better cared for in the ICU where nurses have more resources available and are able to monitor things more closely," said Dr. Subodh Pal, MD, director of the hospitalist program.

The hospital has an eight-bed Intensive Care Unit. Although it won't turn new patients away, officials are worried that this Labor Day weekend could strain resources even more. They don't have enough beds or nurses to fight COVID-19.

"Every day, the nurses are asked to do the maximum amount of care they can. There is never a day they can catch their breath. Every day, people are pushing themselves to do the best they can. That has long-lasting effects over time," said Pal.

Sampson Regional Medical Center is a smaller hospital, which means it doesn't have the resources that Cape Fear Valley Medical Center in Fayetteville or any Triangle hospital has, for example. It can't even accept transfers or direct admissions from doctor's offices at the moment.

According to Pal, 90 percent of COVID-19 patients are people who are unvaccinated with wait times extending to an hour or more depending on their condition. Sometimes, that wait can be fatal.

"Our goal is always to help and not let people die, but the reality is when you strain the system and delays in care, outcomes are never going to be the same when things are running smoothly and efficiently," said Pal.
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