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UK healthcare leaders share the challenges of latest COVID-19 surge: 'It's just so emotional'

UK HealthCare Chandler B. Hospital.PNG
Posted at 10:30 PM, Aug 26, 2021

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — As the latest surge of COVID-19 threatens to overwhelm Kentucky hospitals, healthcare workers at UK Chandler Hospital are treating a record number of patients with the virus.

On Thursday, during a zoom update, hospital leaders said they currently had 118 COVID-19 patients hospitalized, with 32 on a ventilator.

Of the patients on a ventilator, all but two have not been vaccinated, said Dr. Ashley Montgomery-Yates, chief medical officer for inpatient and emergency services at UK Healthcare.

The hospital has started to delay some elective surgeries and transfer nurses from other departments to care for COVID patients.

"The problem is that if people are coming to the emergency room and they need a ventilator, I have to have a nurse, I have to have a doctor," Montgomery-Yates said.

The patients in this surge are also younger and sicker than previous surges, said Dr. Anna Kalema, medical director of UK's Medical Intensive Care Unit.

"I'm on service and this latest surge has been really really hard for the staff," she said. "And it's not only because we're still trying to recover from the last surge but this is just different. The patients are not only sicker but they're young and we're seeing a lot of pregnant women and it's just so emotional."

But Dr. Kalema said she's incredibly proud of the work frontline healthcare workers are putting in to make sure patients receive quality care.

"I've seen nurses sitting at the bedside of patients in full PPE for hours holding the patient's hand and making sure that they have that familiar comfort," she said. "And that families know that their loved ones are being treated warmly."

It's true vaccinated people can catch COVID, Dr. Montgomery-Yates said, but it's clear they're far less likely to be hospitalized.

Hospital leaders continue to encourage vaccination for personal protection against the virus and to take pressure off of frontline healthcare workers.