BUCKHANNON — As West Virginia now leads the nation in how quickly COVID infections are spreading, St. Joseph’s Hospital is facing the challenges of dealing with the ever-increasing number of COVID patients.
“The rapid increase in COVID in Upshur County is severely straining our hospital’s resources,” said Skip Gjolberg, President of St. Joseph’s Hospital. “I am not sure the community understands how critical this situation has become. We have now moved into the Crisis Level of Code Triage with our Incident Command team meeting daily to assess the quickly changing situation.”
The hospital’s emergency department is seeing a record number of patients, with at least 50% testing positive for COVID or having COVID-like symptoms. “These patients are sicker and often younger,” said Emergency Department Director Maria Long, MD. “With nowhere in the state to transfer them to, we are often forced to house them in our emergency department, sometimes for hours. Our staff is becoming overwhelmed.”
The hospital is facing staffing shortages and some staff are working 50 to 60 hours a week. The number of ventilators available statewide is also becoming an issue, requiring hospitals to carefully assess their resources.
The hospital’s PromptCare Walk-In Clinic was closed on August 25 to provide more capacity in its Emergency Department. To assist departments in desperate need of staff, the decision was made to halt all elective surgery, effective Thursday, September 9. In addition, the hospital’s Café Pallotti will be closed to the outside public unless they are in the hospital for testing or visitation.
“With this surge expected to continue for the next few weeks, things are only going to become more challenging,” said Gjolberg. “We urge our community to help us by not coming to the emergency room unless absolutely necessary, to utilize telephone or video visits with their providers, and most importantly, get vaccinated. In West Virginia, 83% of COVID admissions come from unvaccinated individuals, 90% of ICU admissions come from unvaccinated individuals, and 93% of ventilator patients come from unvaccinated individuals. Vaccinations are going to be the only way we can beat this pandemic and prevent severe illness and death.”