Springfield News-Sun

Delta variant is ‘a different animal’

Springfiel­d hospital faces triple threat as COVID cases increase.

- By Sydney Dawes Staff Writer

Mercy Health-springfiel­d Regional Medical Center has witnessed a steady increase in COVID-19 patients over the last month, a higher demand for infusion therapies to treat the respirator­y illness and a growing staffing shortage with all combining to create a strain on the hospital.

Dr. Paul Buchanan, Chief Clinical Officer of Mercy Health Springfiel­d, told the News-sun that the Springfiel­d Regional Medical Center has seen an increase since August of patients requiring hospitaliz­ation for the coronaviru­s.

Springfiel­d Regional Medical Center had at most 11 COVID-19 positive patients in the first half of August, with no more than five patients requiring an ICU bed, according to Mercy Health data, One patient required the use of a ventilator. In the second half of August, that more than doubled with 23 patients reported on Aug. 30.

On Sept. 16, the hospital reported 31 COVID-19 patients, with six in ICU and three on ventilator­s.

As of Friday afternoon, a total of 17,454 cases of COVID-19 has been reported in Clark County, with 594 total hospitaliz­ations and 325 deaths.

Buchanan told the News-sun that the vast majority of hospitaliz­ations for COVID-19 nationally are occurring among people who are unvaccinat­ed, with hospitaliz­ations among vaccinated people only accounting for up to 20% of hospitaliz­ations nationally.

COVID-19 hospitaliz­ations in Clark County mirror the national figures.

Roughly 20% of hospitaliz­ations locally are resulting from breakthrou­gh cases (vaccinated individual­s being infected with the coronaviru­s), Clark County Combined Health District health commission­er Charles Patterson said during his weekly update on the status of the virus in the county.

Buchanan said vaccinated individual­s who become infected with COVID-19 and require hospitaliz­ation often have pre-existing comorbidi- ties, such as asthma or other diseases or medical conditions.

Although the COVID-19 vaccine doesn’t fully prevent an individual from catching the virus, it does dramatical­ly lessen the chances of a per- son requiring hospitaliz­ation or dying from the virus. Buchanan recommende­d county residents use face masks as a layer of protection against the virus, and he also urged people who have not been vaccinated to do so.

“The delta variant is a different animal,” he said.

The rise in hospitaliz­ations has taken a toll on the staff at Springfiel­d Regional Center, too, as they work on the COVID-19 frontlines, Buchanan said. More than a year into the pandemic, staff are experienci­ng fatigue.

“At the beginning, they were fresh, they were ready for it,” Buchanan said. However, since the pandemic’s start, many staff members have quit or moved on to other opportunit­ies, Buchanan said.

Buchanan also told the News-sun that medical staff at Springfiel­d Regional Medical Center have also had to leave work due to catching the virus themselves after coming into contact with a patient who was sick with the virus.

The hospital has been con- tracting traveling nurses to add to their workforce, a costly measure, Buchanan said.

The hospital’s infusion ther- apy clinics — such as Regeneron’s COVID-19 therapy, which can serve as a treat- ment to patients that allows them not to be hospitaliz­ed — have also been operating at “full tilt,” Buchanan said, with the increase in demand for the therapy causing the facilities it is offered in and the staff who can administer it to be “maxed out.” However, paramedics are currently being trained to administer Regeneron’s COVID-19 ther- apy, a move Buchanan said will provide greater capacity to administer the therapy.

NON-COVID-19 patients requiring treatment have also been impacted by the rise in COVID hospitaliz­a- tions, Buchanan said, with Springfiel­d Regional Medical Center having a “congested” emergency room due to the influx of patients coming in with coronaviru­s symptoms.

In addition, the hospital has had to turn down patient transfer requests due to lack of space, with hospitals from Kentucky, Wisconsin and West Virginia calling to ask to place a patient in the Springfiel­d facility.

The trend seen nation- ally by hospitals of a rise in COVID-19 hospitaliz­ations and decline in staff to fight the virus will likely continue, Buchanan said.

“It’s most likely that we’re going to stay at this level for a while,” he said. “There’s no end in sight.”

 ?? BILL LACKEY / STAFF ?? Mercy Health-springfiel­d Regional Medical Center is dealing with increased hospitaliz­ations due to the spread of the delta variant of COVID-19.
BILL LACKEY / STAFF Mercy Health-springfiel­d Regional Medical Center is dealing with increased hospitaliz­ations due to the spread of the delta variant of COVID-19.

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