With omicron at possible Louisville peak, where do hospitals stand on patients, staffing?

·4 min read

Louisville may have reached a case plateau with the omicron variant, but hospitals continue to feel the strain of COVID-19 and some have pulled back on non-emergency surgeries.

Dr. Chuck Anderson said Baptist Health Louisville, where he's chief medical officer, has delayed some procedures that can safely wait — such as elective knee and hip surgeries — both because of lack of beds and staff shortages.

"We're doing the ones that need to be done," he said. "But the ones that are truly elective and can wait for like 30 days, we've asked the surgeon to talk with the patient to try to do that."

Cases are looked at carefully, he added. "Obviously, we don't want to delay … surgeries that are definitely needed."

Dr. Chuck Anderson
Dr. Chuck Anderson

The Baptist Health System had 511 hospitalized COVID-19 patients as of Monday across nine hospitals.

Baptist Health Louisville had 109 as of Wednesday. Staffing shortages have improved some, Anderson said, and the location has Kentucky National Guard members on hand helping in areas like transport and dietary.

"It's been a help in the sense of extra hands," he said. "It's been a help in the sense of morale, in a way, because everybody thanks them."

More: COVID-19: Beshear mobilizes more National Guard members to help hospitals with omicron

Meanwhile, U of L Health had 232 COVID-19 patients hospitalized as of Wednesday, 29 of which are in intensive care; 17 on ventilators. The system also had 190 employees out but has not had to cancel any elective procedures so far, according to a spokeswoman.

Earlier this month: Kentucky COVID-19 cases skyrocket, positivity rate hits record amid omicron surge

Norton Healthcare reported 268 hospitalized COVID-19 patients as of Wednesday and had 230 employees out of 18,000 out on medical furlough, according to a spokeswoman. In addition, "Only a small percentage of patients whose procedures are safe to reschedule have experienced a delay."

City data shows a small dip in hospitalization totals this month. After hitting 539 across all city hospitals on Jan. 18, there were 490 total as of Wednesday.

COVID-19 Hospitalized patients in Louisville as of Jan. 26, 2022.
COVID-19 Hospitalized patients in Louisville as of Jan. 26, 2022.

Intensive care patients spiked to 131 on Sunday and had decreased to 72 total on Wednesday.

Health officials said Tuesday it appears the omicron variant has reached its case peak in the city but expect to see just as many cases on the wave's decline as there were on the incline.

COVID-19 ICU patients in Louisville as of Jan. 26, 2022
COVID-19 ICU patients in Louisville as of Jan. 26, 2022

Statewide as of Wednesday, Kentucky had 2,493 COVID-19 patients hospitalized.

Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack said Tuesday most of the patients were in the hospital for COVID-19, with a small slice of positive patients being in for other things.

The delta variant still holds the record for most people hospitalized with the virus in Kentucky at 2,541 on Sept. 10. Stack said more vaccinations and milder illnesses associated with omicron have helped keep the hospitalizations from setting statewide records so far.

Kentucky COVID-19 hospitalizations from Aug. 1, 2020 to Jan. 24, 2022.

Dr. Steven Stack, the state's public health commissioner, shared this graph during a press conference on Jan. 24, 2022.
Kentucky COVID-19 hospitalizations from Aug. 1, 2020 to Jan. 24, 2022. Dr. Steven Stack, the state's public health commissioner, shared this graph during a press conference on Jan. 24, 2022.

More: 'All the things we took for granted': Variants, vax rate propel Kentucky to 1M COVID cases

Baptist Health Richmond, about an hour and a half southeast of Louisville, announced this week it would halt all elective procedures "due to an increase in patient volumes attributed to the current COVID-19 surge," starting Wednesday.

“The clinical leadership at our hospital is monitoring the scope of procedures that fall into the categories of elective, urgent and emergency procedures,” Dr. Erica Gregonis, the chief medical officer for the Richmond hospital, said in a statement. “Our medical experts will be making these decisions while maintaining the best interest of our patient’s well-being and safety.”

More: Kentucky emergency room doctors make an urgent plea to the public as hospitalizations rise

The problem of hospital staffing shortages continues across the state.

"We're running out of health care workers. So there's a lot of beds in the hospitals and there's a lot of ventilators and a lot of other equipment but not a lot of people to operate all this stuff," Stack said Tuesday. "And as a more than 20-year practicing emergency physician, let me just assure you, you need the people. The machines don't do any good without the people."

Background: Nursing shortage worries Kentucky hospitals as COVID-19 delta variant cases rise

Anderson said, in general, healthcare workers are "tired" at Baptist Health Louisville, with some mentioning "compassion fatigue."

"I don't think there's any lack of compassion," he said. "But everyone's tired and weary."

They're asking, he said, "Is this going to end for us?"

Reach health reporter Sarah Ladd at sladd@courier-journal.com. Follow her on Twitter at @ladd_sarah.

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: With omicron at possible peak in Louisville, where do hospitals stand?

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