COVID cases rising; hospital officials say public compliance can slow it

Michele Sutton

Northshore hospital leaders united this weekend in pleading again with residents to slow the spread within the community.

The group advises even amid the rollout of vaccines, practices such as wearing masks, social distancing, and isolating when ill are the most effective ways to protect each other.

The Louisiana Department of Health reports that 2029 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, and 235 of those patients are on ventilators.

“Effects from gatherings over Christmas and New Year’s Eve are starting to come in—the numbers are proving it,” said Hiral Patel, CEO, Lakeview Regional Medical Center. “We have to be more vigilant moving forward, giving our healthcare workers a break.”

Over the past several days, local hospitals have experienced an influx of patients needing hospital care, including an increase in COVID patients.

“Hospital capacity fluctuates by day and even the hour,” said Michele Kidd Sutton, FACHE, president/chief executive offficer of North Oaks Health System in Hammond. “While the recent increase in COVID patients most definitely strains overall capacity across the region, Northshore hospitals currently have sufficient bed capacity, equipment and staff resources to manage both COVID and non-COVID needs safely. But that could change if we stay on the current trajectory. This is why we are asking the public to stay vigilant with universal precautions to help slow the spread.”

The group reassured the public that hospitals continue to meet the community’s health needs and advise patients not to delay accessing needed healthcare, whether COVID related or not.

“Each of our facilities stands ready to serve,” Joan M. Coffman FACHE, president/CEO of St. Tammany Health System, said. “Anyone who needs medical care should not hesitate to seek it. We are all balancing the need for routine healthcare in our local population with the rising COVID hospitalizations. Do not ignore symptoms or delay needed care out of concern related to COVID.

“Everyone needs to do their part to stop the spread,” said Our Lady of the Angels Hospital President Rene J. Ragas. “Mitigation tactics include covering your mouth and nose in public, avoiding crowds, and keeping your distance from people who don’t live in your household.”

Louisiana has started receiving COVID vaccines, but it will be months before a sufficient population is vaccinated.

“As soon as you qualify, schedule your vaccination,” said John Herman, CEO Ochsner Health-Northshore Region. “The sooner we reach 70% of our population, the sooner we can see an end to this worldwide pandemic.”

Currently, vaccines are available for people over 70 years of age; outpatient clinic providers and staff; urgent care clinic providers and staff; community care clinic providers and staff; behavioral health providers and staff; dialysis center providers, staff and clients; home health service providers and recipients; dental providers and staff; and students, residents, faculty, and staff of allied health schools.

“Patients should refer to the Louisiana Department of Health website for information on how and where to get the vaccine,” said Slidell Memorial Hospital & Ochsner Medical Center – Northshore Chief Executive Officer Sandy Badinger. “This can be difficult for some of our older citizens, and we encourage family members to assist them in the process.”

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