East Tennessee hospital leaders give COVID-19 update

Officials with several East Tennessee hospitals gave an update on COVID-19 in the region Wednesday.
Published: Sep. 15, 2021 at 8:34 AM EDT|Updated: Sep. 15, 2021 at 12:25 PM EDT
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East Tennessee COVID Update

East Tennessee hospital officials give an update on COVID-19 in the region. More:

Posted by WVLT on Wednesday, September 15, 2021

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Officials with several East Tennessee hospitals gave an update on COVID-19 in the region Wednesday. The update was held as a virtual Zoom call where doctors from many hospitals across East Tennessee spoke on how the recent rise in COVID-19 cases has affected healthcare.

Officials gave updates on hospital data, emergency department insights, COVID-19′s effect on pediatric hospitals, vaccines and staffing.

Hospital officials compared the current COVID-19 surge to the winter surge seen in late 2020 and early 2021. According to Dr. James Shamiyeh with the University of Tennessee Medical Center, the current surge in cases is steeper than it was in the winter months.

“This is different, without question, than the winter surge,” Dr. James Shamiyeh said.

Shamiyeh also spoke on ICU bed availability, saying that beds become more and less available throughout the day. However, he also said that ICU beds are becoming unavailable regularly during peak service hours.

The rise in COVID-19 has also led to a ride in ICU patients on ventilators, Dr. Shamiyeh said. This can cause hospital-wide effects, as sicker patients need more intensive care.

“There’s a domino effect created,” he said. “Our hospitals stay full all the time; we are always busy.”

Emergency departments are also seeing a rise in COVID-19 cases, along with regular patients, Dr. Mark Browne, an official with Covenant Health said. He also asked potential patients to refrain from going to the emergency room when they have mild symptoms of COVID-19, since emergency departments are seeing more patients.

“As busy as all of our emergency departments are, we want to care for you,” Dr. Browne said.

Dr. Joe Childs with the East Tennessee Children’s Hospital gave an update on pediatric hospitals as well. According to Childs, pediatric hospitals are seeing more COVID-19 patients as well, even compared to the winter surge. However, most of the serious cases of COVID-19 stem from pre-existing conditions, he said.

According to Dr. Childs, winter-time viruses other than COVID-19 are causing stress on children’s hospitals. “A lot of winter viruses are here making kids sick as well,” Dr. Childs said.

Dr. Childs also said that many high-risk pediatric patients have received monoclonal antibody treatment, which he said has helped stop more serious cases of COVID-19.

Dr. Frank Beuerlein with Tennova Healthcare gave an update on vaccinations in the region, echoing thoughts that the vaccines are safe and effective. He also warned against believing false information shared on social media and online, instead asking people to speak with healthcare providers about the vaccine.

According to Dr. Beuerlein, rural hospitals with high populations of unvaccinated people are seeing more stress than others. He said that unvaccinated patients are seeing more severe cases of COVID-19, which in turn take more hospital resources to treat.

He also recommended people who have gotten COVID-19 already should also consider the vaccine.

Dr. Harold Naramore with Blount Memorial Hospital gave an update on staffing, saying that while hospitals are still able to provide care, staff is under stress because of an influx of patients.

“Our nurses everyday are being asked to work harder and longer,” he said. “We are going to need your help to fix that.”

He also asked people to consider taking a COVID-19 vaccine and follow basic sickness-preventing procedures.

“Vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate,” he said. “Please wear a mask, please socially distance, please wash your hands, especially if you’ve chosen to not get vaccinated.”

Dr. Naramore said that healthcare workers are seeing a major drop in days off and an increase in overtime. “It is no secret that we have a number of staff that have decided to not participate,” he said. “There is no more staff to bring in.”

“I’ve heard the ‘things aren’t real’ [argument]. I assure you, if you walk through our hospitals you will see that it is as real as it gets,” Dr. Naramore said.

The state releases daily information on active COVID-19 cases, vaccinations, deaths and hospitalizations. You can follow those numbers here.

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