Rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations pushes Centra Health over full capacity

On Monday, a record number of patients were left waiting in the emergency room

Health leaders in Central Virginia are now calling the COVID-19 pandemic in hospitals dire.

LYNCHBURG, Va. – Health officials in Central Virginia are now calling the COVID-19 situation in hospitals dire.

Centra Health in Lynchburg says its hospitalizations and overcrowded emergency rooms are the worst they’ve been in the pandemic’s entire duration. The fear is that this second wave hasn’t reached its peak yet.

For caregivers at Centra, they say Monday night was proof of that.

“Make no bones about it, this is a serious situation,” Centra Health’s Dr. Michael Elliot says.

Dr. Elliot says a record number of 72 patients were left waiting in the emergency room for hours on end. The hospital didn’t have any open beds.

“If you had a heart attack, a stroke or something serious going on, the hospital is so full we’re concerned about the care we can give,” he says.

Doctors say the record number of sick patients may have something to do with people delaying care during the pandemic. Add that to COVID hospitalizations jumping from 45 to 70 in the last week, and it’s more than enough to stretch caregivers past their limits.

“In terms of taking up the beds we need to use for these COVID sick folks, that’s the entire coronary and oncology floor,” Centra Health’s Dr. Chris Lewis says.

Centra officials are considering going back to canceling elective surgeries. While they won’t turn patients away, they’re suggesting seeking care elsewhere if it’s not urgent.

“The constraint now, frankly, staffing is our biggest one,” Dr. Lewis says. “Beds somewhat as well, but it’s the staffing. The caregivers, particularly nurses.”

Centra says since mandating the vaccine, they’ve had nine people resign. It’s only about 2% of their staff, but doctors say they aren’t in a position to lose anyone.

“All day and all night, we’re trying to figure out how to move around resources to make sure we can still care for the community,” Dr. Elliot says.

On Tuesday alone, Centra says three young and healthy people died of COVID. While they couldn’t tell us their vaccination status, they did say all patients in their ICU are not vaccinated.

Doctors add the COVID vaccine’s effectiveness against the Delta variant isn’t as strong as they’d hoped. However, they say it’s still proving to keep people out of the ICU.

About the Author:

Kortney joined the 10 News team as a Lynchburg Bureau Reporter in May 2021.