The head of emergency medicine at Memorial Regional Hospital says the recent influx in coronavirus cases is hitting South Florida hospitals hard.
“Late June we saw a significant surge of patients. It happened rather quickly over the course of I would say days where we had a number of patients coming into the emergency department,” said Dr. Randy Katz. “I think the public needs to know that the healthcare systems all over Dade, Broward and Palm Beach County are really stretched right at capacity."
Katz says they admit about 80 patients to the ER each day, and about 10 of those are usually patients with COVID-19.
As numbers from The Agency for Healthcare Administration show ICU beds running low in Miami Dade and Broward County, Katz says hospitals within the Memorial Healthcare System have expanded capacity by repurposing spaces to add more beds, re-deploying staff to priority areas and adding tents outside of their emergency rooms.
“In our emergency department we’ve made an effort to try and segregate patients as much as possible. So we do have a tent outside. We use that tent for patients with COVID-type symptoms,” said Katz.
To reduce any burden on the emergency room, those with minor symptoms should use testing sites first. Katz says you should only use the ER for COVID-19 testing if you experience these symptoms:
- trouble breathing
- persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- new confusion
- inability to wake or stay awake
- bluish lips or face
The well-being of healthcare workers on the frontlines has also been a challenge.
“The last three or four weeks have been extremely difficult for our staff," Katz said. "There’s a lot of stress right now among the work staff and the people working in the emergency department and the ICUs. So mental health is a really big issue that we’re dealing right now and it’s important for staff to take some time off for their families."
He says they’re bringing in some support.
“We are stretched and we have some nurses who have acquired COVID sometimes in the hospital or out in the community, so we have lost a few nurses," Katz said. "We are bringing in some extra nurses and providers through staffing agencies and those types of things to provide some relief for our staff."
Katz says one silver lining is that death rates from COVID-19 have been lower in their hospitals.
“We’ve really been able to effectively treat our patients this time around," he said. "Reduced length of stay, reduced mortality rates and overall I think about 92% of patients admitted to the hospital that are sick, wind up going home."
Katz also encourages COVID-19 survivors to donate convalescent plasma. If you meet that criteria you can make an appointment at www.oneblood.org.