Health Team

Area hospitals nearing maximum capacity as COVID cases continue to rise

Posted December 28, 2020 6:21 p.m. EST
Updated December 29, 2020 12:19 p.m. EST

— Coronavirus cases are on the rise throughout North Carolina, and area hospitals are running out of space.

Monday saw a new record high for people being treated for COVID-19 in hospitals statewide, at 3,192. It also saw Johnston County Health reach maximum capacity in both of its Clayton and Smithfield hospitals.

"There just aren't enough nurses to go around and take care of all the patients," said Johnston Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Rodney McCaskill.

Despite the rise in patients, the number of employees stays the same.

"I think, if you asked me the question that keep me up at night, [it] is about our staff. If you can imagine the patients they're working with, and for, they work so hard and tirelessly every day and then you have to get up and come back in the next day," said Tom Williams, the CEO and president Johnston Health.

"It's getting to a point where there will not be any resources available if we have additional patients coming in," added McCaskill.

Elsewhere, Cape Fear Valley Health is moving closer and closer to 100% capacity. Chief Medical Officer Dr. Sam Fleishman isn't hiding his unease.

“We’re very concerned about what that means for our ability to take care of people, now and in the coming months,” Fleishman said. “It’s been tough, our staff is stretched. They’re all working very hard. Everybody’s looking to pull and utilize every resource to take care of everyone that we can.”

Currently in North Carolina, it is expected that 21% of those hospitalized either have or are suspected of having COVID. Christmas and New Year's gatherings have doctors and health officials preparing for even greater numbers over the next several weeks.

“It’s getting to a crisis point, if this was a tsunami or hurricane, I’d say it’s hitting right now,” Fleishman said. “The damage is here (and) we’re dealing with the emergency of trying to manage that, except it’s a lot longer than a hurricane. It’s going to continue.”

"We're certainly experiencing a surge since Thanksgiving," said McCaskill. "Our concern, which we've anticipated, are most likely gatherings that occurred on Christmas and upcoming New Year's."

In addition, Fleishman says that the overwhelming numbers are leading to a nursing shortage – a problem that many other parts of the country are also experiencing.

“I would like people to think about this pandemic much like I guess like our population did when we were in World War II or in the time of the Great Depression," he said. "Everybody had to step up and do their part, and we need everybody to do their part.”

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