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COVID-19 ICU beds in Arkansas now full; smaller hospitals struggling

Small regional hospitals in Arkansas are struggling to keep up with the number of COVID-19...
Small regional hospitals in Arkansas are struggling to keep up with the number of COVID-19 patients in their ICUs right now.(WLBT)
Published: Aug. 25, 2021 at 1:47 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 25, 2021 at 7:34 PM CDT
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MAGNOLIA, Ark. (KSLA) - COVID-19 vaccination rates appear to be increasing now that the FDA has given full approval for the Pfizer vaccine, but the negative effects of the virus continue to plague Arkansas hospitals.

“We have days of struggle, but we take one day at a time, actually, one hour at a time,” said Stephanie Schmittou, chief nursing officer at Magnolia Regional Medical Center.

Arkansas healthcare providers are working around the clock taking care of COVID-19 patients and recently received some news from Governor Asa Hutchinson that they were expecting, but did not want to hear.

“Everybody should know the strain on our hospitals because of the increased number of COVID patients, those beds are full right now,” the governor said during his weekly COVID-19 briefing on Tuesday, Aug. 24.

Hospital leaders at Magnolia Regional Medical Center in Columbia County say a nursing shortage, which was present before the pandemic, is adding to the ICU bed problem.

“So we are seeing a possible visible bed that may be open, but there is not enough staff to care for those patients,” said Schmittou.

Schmittou says they’re making adjustments to treat COVID-19 patients who enter their facility.

“We have actually diverted one of our units to extend staff from that unit to other areas to help fill in the void of the staffing need,” she said.

The lack of ICU beds is also effecting medical care for non-COVID patients, especially in small hospitals like Magnolia Regional.

“Our ER is seeing patients and holding patients longer than normal because the need to transfer to a higher level of care is very difficult at this time because there are no beds available in the state,” said Schmittou.

Governor Hutchinson says the average age of those currently hospitalized for COVID-19 in Arkansas is 55, which he says emphasizes the need to get vaccinated.

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