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Amid surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations, UofL Health top doctor hopeful for end-of-September plateau

Published: Sep. 9, 2021 at 5:55 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 9, 2021 at 7:59 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - As the Delta variant of COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc across the country, Kentucky hospitals are suffering from staff shortages and overcapacity.

Gov. Andy Beshear told reporters Thursday 60 of the state’s 96 hospitals are operating under critical staffing shortages.

“Our hospital situation has never been more dire in my lifetime than it is right now,” Beshear said. “We cannot handle more sick individuals.”

To combat it, Beshear said he has called the Kentucky National Guard into 21 more hospitals around the state to offer logistical and administrative support. The Kentucky National Guard already has been assisting at hospitals in Morehead, Hazard, Bowling Green and Pikeville, but will now help at a total of 24 hospitals across Kentucky.

Baptist Health locations in Louisville and Elizabethtown, as well as UofL Hospital, are among the local hospitals where guardsmen and women will be assisting.

”This shows that every hospital is bursting at the seams,” Beshear said. “They desperately need help and we are a state full of more seriously sick people than we have ever seen. So we got to have everybody wake up.”

A spokesperson for Baptist Health Louisville told WAVE 3 News the guardsmen and women are expected there Tuesday and will provide “non-clinical support.” She said the hospital is currently treating roughly 80 patients for COVID-19, which is about two dozen fewer than what Baptist Health Louisville saw at its highest point.

UofL Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jason Smith told reporters Thursday UofL’s system is currently treating 154 people for COVID-19. Of those patients, 12 have been fully vaccinated. Forty of the 154 patients have been admitted into the hospitals’ intensive care units. Of those 40, two have been fully vaccinated.

That said, Smith said the rate of increase in the UofL system is starting to slow.

“We had this precipitous climb the last three to four weeks prior to this, where we were adding 30 and 40 patients a week to our census,” Smith said. “This week it appears that we’re only adding around 10 or 15. And while that’s not great, maybe it demonstrates that something is slowing in the community. Still early to tell, but my hope is as we get to the middle to latter parts of September, we may begin to see a peak or a plateau in the number of people coming into the healthcare organizations.”

Beshear said Monday’s deployment will bring the total number of Kentucky National Guard members assisting COVID-19 efforts to more than 400.

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