Coronavirus Health

As of August 18, there were more people in the ICU with COVID-19 in Kentucky than at any other time during the pandemic. 

As numbers continue to surge due to the delta variant, hospitals in the state are approaching capacity.

“The Medical Center at Bowling Green is at capacity. The critical care units are full. We are unable to accept patients from outlying facilities that we usually take and need our help,” said Katrina Wood, interim chief nursing officer at Med Health Center.

At Thursday’s Team Kentucky update, other health care workers from across the state told similar stories of their hospitals filling up with COVID-19 patients. 

The Appalachian Regional Healthcare Command Center helps hospitals connect patients who need more intensive treatment with facilities in the region that can provide that level of care. 

“The hospitals that we usually call when patients need a higher level of care are now calling us looking for beds,” said Trish Smith, director of the center. 

At Baptist Health Hardin in Elizabethtown, 18 out of 20 ICU beds are occupied by COVID-19 patients. 

“We’re using high flow oxygen and ventilators at a rate we’ve never really seen before at this hospital,” chief medical officer at Baptist Health Hardin Dr. John Godfrey said. 

Along with increasing patient numbers, staff shortages are causing even more strain on health facilities.

The amount of open beds open at many places does not accurately reflect the amount of beds that can be staffed. 

“Many of our staff are quarantined from COVID exposure, some have retired, some have resigned and left health care entirely,” the chief nursing officer at Baptist Health Hardin, Sharon Wright, said.

The issue of staff shortage has been a problem for a variety of business sectors but posed a large concern for the health sector in particular because as hospitals reach capacity from COVID-19 patients, other people seeking medical care run out of options. 

The Kentucky Association of Health Care Facilities issued a statement Thursday in response to President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for staff at nursing homes receiving Medicaid or Medicare benefits.

They expressed concern for the way the mandate could affect the already small staff in some facilities. 

Gov. Andy Beshear announced that the state will be keeping track of available staffed hospital beds in the commonwealth starting next week. Numbers about COVID-19 in Kentucky can be found on the Team Kentucky resource page.

Breya Jones is the Breaking News Reporter for WFPL.