US Hospitals in Disaster in Least Vaccinated State | Well being information
By LEAH WILLINGHAM, Associated Press / Report for America
JACKSON, miss. (AP) – As patients flock to Mississippi hospitals one by one, doctors and nurses have gotten all too used to the rampant denial and misinformation about COVID-19 in the nation’s least vaccinated state.
People who deny the severity of their own illness or the virus itself, with visitors often trying to enter hospitals without masks. The painful expression of recognition on patients’ faces when they realize they made a mistake not to get vaccinated. The constant misinformation about the coronavirus that they discuss with medical staff.
“There is no point in judging in this situation. There’s no point in telling them, ‘You should have got the vaccine or you wouldn’t be here,’ ”said Dr. Risa Moriarity, vice chairwoman of the emergency department at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. “We do not do that. We try not to preach and teach them. Some of them are so sick that they can hardly speak to us. “
Mississippi’s low vaccination rate, with roughly 38% of the state’s 3 million people fully vaccinated against COVID-19, is leading to an increase in cases and hospital stays overwhelming medical staff. Workers are furious and exhausted from both the workload and residents’ refusal to accept the vaccine.
Doctors at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, the only first-stage trauma center in Mississippi, care for the sickest patients in the state.
The emergency room and intensive care unit are almost all overloaded with COVID patients. Moriarity said it was like a “blockade” with beds in hallways, patients being treated in triage rooms. Paramedics have a delay in responding to new calls because they have to wait with patients in need of care.
Four pregnant women died last week in a Mississippi hospital, said state health officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs. Three of the cases required an emergency caesarean section and the babies were seriously premature.
“This is the reality that we are looking at, and again, none of these people have been vaccinated,” Dobbs said.
Moriarity said it was hard to put into words the tiredness she and her colleagues are feeling. Going to work every day has become exhausting and heartbreaking, she said.
“Most of us still have enough emotional reserves to show compassion, but at the end of the day you leave work just exhausted from the effort it takes to build that compassion for people who are not around take care of yourself and the people around you. ” She said.
During a recent press conference, UMMC head Dr. LouAnn Woodward, with tears as she described the toll on healthcare workers.
“We as a state, as a collective, have failed to respond consistently to a common threat,” said Woodward.
As the virus builds up, hospital officials are asking residents to get vaccinated. The UMMC announced in July that its 10,000 employees and 3,000 students will be vaccinated or wear an N95 mask on campus. By the end of August, the heads of state and government had revised this policy, vaccinations are the only option.
Moriarity said this surge hurt morale more than previous highs of the virus. Her team thought in May and June that despite the low vaccination rate in Mississippi, an end was in sight. The hospital’s intensive care units were empty and there were few COVID patients. Then cases with the Delta variant of the virus soared and flooded the hospital.
The number of total coronavirus hospital admissions in Mississippi has decreased slightly, with nearly 1,450 people hospitalized for coronavirus on September 1, compared to about 1,670 on August 19. But they are still higher than the numbers during previous increases in the virus.
At the medical center’s children’s hospital, emergency room nurse Anne Sinclair said she was fed up with the constant misinformation she hears that children cannot get very sick from COVID.
“I’ve seen kids die in my COVID unit, complications from COVID, and that’s just nothing to ever forget,” she said.
“It’s very sobering,” continued Sinclair, who is the parent of a 2-year-old and a 5-year-old daughter and worried about their safety. “I just wish people could look past politics and think about their families and their children.”
To deal with overrun COVID patients, the Christian aid organization Samaritan’s Purse has set up an emergency field hospital in the parking garage of the UMMC children’s hospital.
The hospital treats an average of 15 patients per day with a capacity for seven intensive care patients.
Nurse Kelly Sites, who has also treated COVID patients in hotspots like California and Italy, said it was heartbreaking to know that the vaccine could have prevented some of the serious cases. Many patients are so sick that they cannot speak. Nurses walk around with taped scriptures on their gowns and recite them to their patients.
Samaritan’s Purse is an international disaster relief organization with missions on several continents. Sites responded to 20 missions in Haiti, the Philippines, Liberia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and other locations.
“Responding to the United States is pretty surreal for us,” she said. “It’s a challenge because the home is usually stable. So when we kick in, we’re just going to catastrophe. This is the first time that the home has been a disaster. “
Leah Willingham is a corps member of the Associated Press / Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a not-for-profit national utility that places journalists on local newsrooms to cover undercover issues.
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