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Health Team

Increasing COVID cases leading to stretched resources and diminished space in rural NC

Posted December 30, 2020 7:42 p.m. EST
Updated January 1, 2021 1:08 p.m. EST

— Hospitals across North Carolina are continuing to fill up as COVID-19 cases rise, and smaller, rural hospitals are especially stressed in areas dealing with critical community spread.

“We had our highest watermark yesterday with 54 patients with COVID, in addition to the regular patients we have,” said Jason Cox, chief operating officer at UNC Health Southeastern, in Lumberton. “It’s certainly the most we’ve ever seen hospitalized here in Robeson County.”

Cox says the hospital is at 93% capacity, and its intensive care unit is at maximum capacity, with about half being COVID patients. But the biggest challenge could be personnel.

“Staffing has really been taxed due to people being out for their own COVID diagnosis, their loved ones' COVID diagnosis or just taking opportunities in other parts of the United States to take some of these more lucrative assignments.” Cox said.

Cape Fear Valley Health, in Fayetteville, is at 95% capacity for its eight hospitals. Chief of Emergency Services Dr. Michael Zappa shares the same staffing concerns.

“It’s not stretching so much in terms of physical space, but it’s going to stress us in terms of staff," Zappa said. "As you know, there’s a nationwide nursing shortage."

In Pinehurst, FirstHealth of the Carolinas is dealing with a 20% positivity rate for tests. In addition, 88 of the 386 patients are facing COVID.

The emergency department at FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital on Tuesday admitted the highest number of COVID patients in a single day since the start of the pandemic.

Health officials agree the light at the end of the tunnel are the vaccines.

Gov. Roy Cooper announced Wednesday that the state has adjusted the priority list of North Carolinians to receive the vaccine, promising hope to the more rural and at-risk communities.

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