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UK ICU doctor warns of crowded Kentucky hospitals, fatigued health care workers

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Posted at 3:29 PM, Dec 15, 2020

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Almost 10 months into the pandemic, a lead doctor at the University of Kentucky Hospital said the hospital is seeing the highest number of COVID-19 patients yet, forcing patients outside the ICU to be two-to-a-room.

Dr. Ashley Montgomery-Yates is the University of Kentucky Hospital's assistant chief medical officer for inpatient service as well as the director of the ICU recovery clinic where she works with COVID-19 patients on the University of Kentucky Hospital's COVID floor.

She said she wishes she could speak to those who refuse to accept the virus is real.

"You should come to the unit and see the patients of families that are sitting at home worrying, the health care workers that are up there day in and day out caring for these patient populations," she said. "I mean, we have over 100 patients in our hospital in any given day that are here because of a primary COVID diagnosis. And for us, it's been a challenge right to navigate a healthcare system that's already very busy and to incorporate and care for that population."

She said the pandemic has made a hectic job busier by adding tasks. She explained it takes about 12 minutes each time she or any healthcare worker needs to enter and exit a patient room due to the need to suit up with PPE properly.

"I think people complain about wearing their cloth mask at the grocery store, but I want you to imagine wearing an N-95 with another thing and a thing over your head and noise and all that," Montgomery-Yates said. "It's hard and health care is a hard job, you know, to be a bedside nurse is it a grueling task some days, and so to do all of that in all of this with gloves and trying to start an IV with two pairs of gloves on, I mean just those details I think people don't think about it's just added an extra layer of stress to every day they work."

She said the scheduling of staff and also patient needs is even more challenging since there are added cleaning measures and other protocols to follow in addition to more COVID-19 patients than they have had yet.

"Everybody says, 'OK what's going to happen tomorrow?' You just sort of feel like you're constantly living on the edge of this cliff and at any moment you could get pushed off," Montgomery-Yates saod. "And this last surge, it was predicted and we kind of knew it was coming right with Thanksgiving and all of the gatherings that are occurring."

With the arrival of the vaccine to the UK Healthcare system, Montgomery-Yates said she will be one of the first in line, along with her family.

"It's amazing and it's going to be a different world in a few months but we've got to get through this and I don't want to lose a whole lot of Kentuckians in between now and then," she said.

She said as she reflects back on the past year, especially with the speed of the vaccine creation, there is some hope.

"As a society, a world society we bicker a lot about religion and borders and tariffs and trade all this stuff but it's absolutely amazing how as a world when everything fell apart, we came together and did this," Montgomery-Yates said. "The boundaries fell apart, that country divide, the religious divide, all of that fell apart, and in eight months or 10 months, we have stood up an entire vaccination program for a disease that didn't really exist at all last year. So it's, I just it's amazing that we have been able to do that and it gives me some faith in humankind that we are capable of solving all of our problems. We just have to stop bickering and get all on the same page."