BUCKHANNON — As Upshur County now leads the state in how quickly COVID infections are spreading, and West Virginia also leads the nation in highest positivity rate, 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 Maria Long, MD, Emergency Department Director. “With nowhere in the state to transfer them to, we are often forced to house them in our emergency department, sometimes for hours or even days. 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.
St. Joseph’s Hospital is asking patients who do not have an emergent or urgent situation to please contact their primary care provider, rather than coming to the emergency department.
“We urge our community to help us by not coming to the emergency room unless absolutely necessary, to utilize telephone, in-person or video visits with their providers and most importantly, get vaccinated,” said Gjolberg. “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.”
With the increase in the highly contagious Delta variant, we strongly urge to you to get your vaccination. The COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective at preventing severe disease and death. Vaccines are available through your primary care provider and at local pharmacies. Vaccinated people can also spread the virus to others, so avoiding close contact with those who are sick, avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth, washing your hands with soap and water, and wearing a mask indoors are additional steps you can take to help stop the spread of this highly contagious strain of COVID-19.