Help comes for stressed-out healthcare workers

Photo: Additional health workers have been placed in Methodist Olive Branch Hospital (pictured) and Baptist Memorial Hospital-DeSoto in Southaven. (Bob Bakken/DeSoto County News)

It was another day of high numbers of coronavirus cases and deaths in Mississippi as the Delta variant continues to invade the state and country. 

The Mississippi State Department of Health Wednesday reported 2,939 new cases of COVID-19 and 81 new death reports in the state. Two of the new death reports came from DeSoto County, the state health department reported. 

To help combat the resulting shortage of healthcare workers at hospitals due to the demands of treating COVID-19, DeSoto County’s two hospitals have received a portion of the medical personnel contracted by the state and announced late last month by Gov. Tate Reeves when he was in Olive Branch on an economic development tour.  

According to DeSoto County officials, nurses and respiratory therapists are now working at Baptist Memorial Hospital-DeSoto in Southaven and Methodist Olive Branch Hospital. 

The workers are some of the more than 1,100 health care personnel requested by hospitals across the state.  So far the state has filled 74 percent of the requests for personnel.

“The situation was becoming dire in our hospitals,” said Board of Supervisors President Mark Gardner in a news release.  “We want to thank the Governor and the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) for answering our call for help.”  

The need for COVID testing had also reached a critical level. “Before we asked for state testing, it was taking people two or three days to get a testing appointment,” said Supervisor Lee Caldwell.

It was back on Aug. 16 that the Board of Supervisors approved sending a request to the state for a state-run COVID-19 testing location and for a field hospital in DeSoto County, similar to hospitals set up in the Jackson area.  

Instead of a hospital, state officials chose to send healthcare workers to DeSoto County as part of the contracting that was done.  

“We are hopeful the extra healthcare workers will reduce the strain on our hospitals,” said Supervisor Ray Denison.  

“Emergency rooms are so busy, we’ve had ambulances waiting for hours to transfer patients with and without COVID,” added Supervisor Jessie Medlin.

State officials did fill the County’s request for a COVID-19 testing site, which opened a week later on Monday, Aug. 23 outside the County Health Department location in Hernando. 

The testing site started with 200 tests a day.  By Wednesday of the first week, the number jumped to 300 tests due to demand.

“The health and welfare of everyone in DeSoto County is our number one concern,” said Supervisor Michael Lee. “We want to make sure they have all the services and resources they need, when they need it.”

Appointments can be made online at www.COVIDschedule.umc.edu  People without internet access can make appointments by calling (601) 496-7200.

People can find more information about COVID-19 testing and resources on the MSDH website www.HealthyMS.com

One healthcare system serving DeSoto County was setting records they would rather not be setting, however. 

Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare (MLH) had a record high 322 hospitalized COVID positive patients under its care. That is compared to 315 just a day ago.

Of the 322 hospitalizations in the Methodist Le Bonheur system, 26 percent are in the intensive care unit.  About 12 percent of the hospitalized patients are fully vaccinated, according to a news release.  

“The majority of these patients have multiple comorbidities or compromised immune systems,” the statement said, adding the system is currently seeing a five-fold increase in COVID deaths among patients aged 40 and younger.

A spokeswoman for Methodist Le Bonheur said figures for individuals locations, such as Methodist Olive Branch Hospital, were not available. 

Methodist Le Bonheur has started a second Monoclonal Antibody Infusion Clinic to expand access to patients in need of infusion. Methodist now offers infusion therapy at its Hacks Cross and University Hospital locations. Infusions have doubled. With additional resources, MLH can now infuse within 24 hours of referral.

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