Hospitals detail impacts of strained ICU capacity in Mississippi

Published: Dec. 19, 2022 at 7:26 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - You’ve heard warnings about full hospitals. It was a real problem during COVID surges the last couple of years. While the virus is less of a problem now, the strain it put on the healthcare system is lingering.

Mississippi hospitals are struggling to get the sickest patients to intensive care units.

“The system is not well. Our health care system throughout the state and really throughout the country is not well. We have insufficient staff,” said Dr. W. Mark Horne, Chief Medical Officer at South Central Medical Center.

On December 8, the state health officer held a briefing and expressed a concern for ICU capacity. At that time, there were 65 ICU beds available in the state, and only 27 of those at the larger level one and two hospitals. We’re following up and checking with hospitals on what they’re seeing.

“It’s tough getting patients anywhere, to any level Hospital in our state by transfer,” noted Neshoba General CEO Lee McCall.

Neshoba General doesn’t have an ICU which means they’re left waiting longer in the ER or sometimes even admitted while waiting.

“We’ve most recently had to transfer patients to Jackson, Tennessee, Pensacola once again, Birmingham...patients that normally would go to Jackson, or Meridian, we just can’t get them in because they’re full,” said McCall.

COVID and flu are adding to the capacity concerns, but South Central Medical Center’s Chief Medical Officer says those aren’t the primary problems. Staffing and demand are.

“There are times where it’s a real challenge to have enough staff,” explained Horne. “You can have a physical space. But if you don’t have a skilled staff necessary to provide the high level of care needed, then it’s a real challenge. But if we’re not unique, it’s every single hospital in the state is facing this.”

They stress that patients will be treated.

“I think what folks need to understand is, you know, they might prefer to go to a certain hospital. And at this point, they’re going to have to go to wherever that hospital ends up accepting them. And that’s what sometimes patients don’t understand.”

We are still waiting on updated numbers for the state’s ICU capacity. The Mississippi Department of Health tells us they continue to monitor it.

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