December 30, 2021, Morris, IL – In the same week that the U.S. and Illinois are averaging the highest number of new COVID cases a day, Morris Hospital is also reporting unprecedented COVID activity.
Twice this week, more than 50% of the COVID tests administered through Morris Hospital were positive, the highest positivity rates seen at the hospital to date. On December 29, Morris Hospital reported 44 hospitalized COVID patients, the highest since the start of the pandemic. And the next day, 12 COVID patients were in the ICU, also the highest to date. The hospital’s Intensive Care Unit is equipped with 12 beds.
“On Wednesday of this week, we were at 150% of our ICU capacity, with overflow in the Emergency Department and other areas of the hospital,” said Mark Steadham, President & CEO of Morris Hospital & Healthcare Centers. “Seven of our COVID patients are currently on a ventilator, which is also the highest since of the start of the pandemic.”
At the same time, Morris Hospital is also experiencing its longest stretch of high overall inpatient volumes. On all but three days over the past month, the overall inpatient census has been above 70 patients. Prior to November 29, there were only four days throughout all of 2021 with an inpatient census above 70.
“We’re an 89 bed hospital, and 8 of those beds are devoted to our Family Birthing Suites,” explained Steadham. “So anytime we’re above 70 inpatients, it can be challenging to identify an appropriate bed for each patient who needs to be admitted depending on the level of care needed.”
Like most healthcare organizations, Morris Hospital is also experiencing a severe staffing shortage, with the highest vacancies for RNs and CNAs. Coupled with employee illness, the extreme number of staff vacancies only exacerbates an already challenging situation and prompted the hospital to postpone all elective surgeries and interventional radiology procedures from December 29-January 5 in order to re-deploy staff to inpatient care.
“The last thing we ever want to do is postpone care for patients,” said Steadham. “The news stories you read or see about hospitals being in crisis is true. In my 32 years as a healthcare administrator, I’ve never witnessed anything like this.”
When asked what the community can do to help, Steadham says the most common plea he hears from physicians who oversee the care of hospitalized COVID patients is vaccination.
“The physicians are frustrated with the low vaccination rate in our community,” says Steadham. “If it’s time for your booster, please, get it taken care of. Get the kids vaccinated so they aren’t spreading the virus to vulnerable loved ones. And if you’ve never been vaccinated, we continue to ask you to join those of us who are doing everything we can to battle the virus and save the lives of people in our community.”
In addition to vaccination, all of the preventive measures that have been instilled since the start of the pandemic continue to be important: wear a mask and keep your distance in public places, carefully consider how and when you gather, stay home if you are sick, and wash your hands frequently, especially after touching shared surfaces.
“When I round through our hospital and ask staff how they’re doing, they tell me they’re hanging in there. Some have asked me to pray for them,” said Steadham. “As a healthcare organization, we are going to continue to adjust and do everything we can to meet the needs of our community. We ask everyone in the community to do their part as well.”