Mississippi’s depleted healthcare workforce pushed to the brink as long COVID-19 patient recovery contributes to overwhelmed hospitals

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STARKVILLE, Miss. (WCBI) – There has not been an open ICU bed at OCH Regional Medical Center during the month of August.

“Just a lot of very sick people,” says OCH Emergency Room and ICU Director Jacob Leggett. “We’re seeing an increased number of patients presenting with COVID signs and symptoms. Some of them are really critically ill.”

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The majority of those beds are holding unvaccinated COVID-19 patients, per OCH. It’s a situation doctors and nurses are facing at nearly every other hospital in Mississippi.

“As of right now, most hospitals in the state are at capacity for ICU patients,” Leggett says. “So we’re really jumping in together and trying to take care of these patients the best that we can with our emergency department staff, as well as ICU staff.”

According to two studies cited by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, patients infected with the Delta variant were more likely to be hospitalized than patients infected with the original virus, though research on the variant is ongoing.

“COVID is kind of a lengthy disease,” Leggett says. “It’s something that can take as much as three to four weeks (to recover from). A lot of times patients might have to be transferred to a long-term acute care facility if they’re on the ventilator for a certain amount of time.”

Leggett says his team of nurses are all qualified, patient-oriented and dedicated to providing the best treatment possible. But with the lengthy recovery time COVID patients face, an already depleted healthcare workforce is being pushed to the brink.

“Right now we are currently full,” Leggett says. “We’re holding critical patients in the emergency department.”

The University of Mississippi Medical Center has warned the public that the state’s entire hospital system could be days away from failure.

Health officials say the way to provide relief for Mississippi’s beleaguered doctors and nurses is simple.

“The vaccinations,” Leggett says. “Protect yourselves and protect your family.”

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