Athens area hospitals cope with COVID patients

Doctor at Grady describes “wall to wall stretchers”

Leaders from six metro Atlanta-area health systems issued a dire warning Thursday about their status amid the latest COVID-19 surge.

Hospital representatives said they are having to ration care for only the sickest of patients as the omicron variant overwhelms emergency departments.

Georgia reported 16,707 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday and 296 more hospitalizations. Around 88% of the states ICU beds are currently occupied and 77% of emergency room beds are full.

Dr. Robert Jansen, chief medical officer at Grady Health System said the state’s largest hospital is at 110% capacity, in large part because of COVID-19 patients.

“It’s wall-to-wall stretchers,” Jansen said about the emergency room. “We have no capacity left in the hospital.”

Dr. Andrea “Andi” Shane with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta said they are seeing a similarly alarming rise in pediatric hospitalizations.

“In the past three, four weeks, we’ve seen more than a hundred children with post-COVID complications,” Shane said.

Some of those complications include Multi-system Inflammatory Syndrome in Children, or MIS-C, which occurs about four weeks after a COVID-19 infection.

Shane said that every child five and older is eligible for the vaccine, but more than 95% of the eligible children visiting the hospital are not vaccinated.

“The way to prevent MIS-C is to prevent COVID-19,” Shane said.

Last week, Channel 2 Action News took you inside the ICU at Piedmont Athens Regional Hospital.

Dr. Nick Fox said he’s had difficult conversations with patients who chose not to get vaccinated.

“We’ve had patients absolutely voiced regret and or at least not an understanding of how severe it could get,” Fox said.

Officials from all six major hospital systems are urging people to get vaccinated, boosted and continue to wear masks and avoid large crowds.

“One of the myths we keep hearing is that it isn’t that serious,” Jansen said. “Perhaps it isn’t for some folks who are lucky. But COVID-19 is having a tremendous impact on underlying disease.”

Jansen said patients with diseases like heart failure, diabetes, sickle cell anemia and people who are immunocompromised get incredibly sick if they get infected.

Jansen said Grady has been forced to divert ambulances to other hospitals multiple times over the last few weeks.

Many metro Atlanta hospitals were on total diversion on Thursday, according to the Georgia Coordination Center.

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