Rapid surge in COVID patients pushing limits at St. Joseph’s Hospital

BUCKHANNON, W.Va. — COVID infections are on the rise again with Delta and now the Omicron variant.  This new wave is affecting hospitals across West Virginia and St. Joseph’s Hospital is no different.  The hospital is currently at capacity in the Medical/Surgical and Critical Care units, which makes it very difficult when the ER wants to admit a patient. Transfers are also very, very difficult with the other hospitals also being full.

“We are in a gridlock situation where only the extremely ill patient may get accepted for transfer,” said Skip Gjolberg, President of St. Joseph’s Hospital. “The hospital is also facing staffing shortages again as the number of staff out with COVID rises.” 

The hospital’s testing trailer is seeing increasing numbers of patients with a recent positivity rate ranging from 20 to 30 percent. The hospital’s emergency department continues to see record numbers of patients, with at least 50 percent testing positive for COVID or having COVID-like symptoms. 

“With nowhere in the state to transfer patients to, we are often forced to house them in our emergency department, sometimes for hours or days,” said Maria Long, MD, Emergency Department Director. 

St. Joseph’s Hospital is now operating at Contingency Level, Tier 2, which is one level below Crisis Level. The Incident Command team is meeting daily or every other day to manage the fluctuating situation. Monoclonal antibodies are in short supply across the state. 

“We ordered 180 doses last week and only received 20,” said Eric Strother, Director of Pharmacy. “This is forcing the hospital to tighten the criteria for people to qualify for the antibody therapy as we work to keep you out of the hospital.”

“With this surge expected to continue for the next few weeks, things are only going to become more challenging,” said Gjolberg. “If you think you have COVID call your medical provider and speak with them, if they agree, ask them for an order for you to get tested. Please do not come into the ER unless your situation is an emergency as this will contribute to the overcrowding. Lastly, please be patient and supportive of us as we near the two-year mark of COVID, we are getting tired also.”

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