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Local hospital overwhelmed by COVID-19 relies on federal medical team to increase capacity

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Posted at 6:36 PM, Sep 06, 2021

MOREHEAD, Ky. (LEX 18) — St. Claire Regional Medical Center is struggling to keep up as hospitalizations continue to climb in Kentucky.

At the request of the Governor, a National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) team has arrived in Morehead to help ease the burden on the hospital’s healthcare workers and expand capacity.

“We have people that are dying every day from COVID,” said hospital president Donald Lloyd. “This is not a fabricated pandemic. It is very real.”

The hospital has been operating above capacity for weeks.

St. Claire switched to a ‘code yellow’ emergency response disaster plan on Aug. 23.

They are staffed for 75 patients, according to Lloyd. However, they currently have 91 patients admitted to the hospital. 40 percent of those patients have COVID-19.

“We have set up a third ICU and we are debating whether to pull that trigger today,” Lloyd said.

The NDMS team includes a medical officer, physician assistant, nurse practitioner, supply officer, respiratory therapist, 4 registered nurses, and three paramedics.

The increased staff presence means more hospital beds can be used, and the team can support emergency department operations.

“The people we’re relieving are overwhelmed. There’s no other way you can put it,” said NDMS team commander Joseph Bail.

Statewide, 72 percent of inpatient beds are full, according to the most recent data from the Kentucky Department for Public Health. 89 percent of ICU beds are currently in use.

The National Guard was deployed last week to help relieve several hospitals across the state, including St. Claire.

St. Claire also set up a field hospital outside, which they have been using as an overflow waiting area for patients exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms.

Even with these resources, Lloyd said he expects the hospital will be strained for several more weeks until the surge ends and cases hopefully begin to decline.

Lloyd is urging Kentuckians to trust science, fight misinformation, and get vaccinated.

"If we could just get people vaccinated, we could see a decline in the current level of activity and we could also see the death and destruction that we're seeing among families decline precipitously,” Lloyd said.

“Wear a mask, social distance, get vaccinated. These are the things that are going to help reduce the problem,” Bail said.

The NDMS team will be in Morehead through Sept. 17.