DANVILLE – Chilling stories from overworked emergency department staff has Geisinger officials pleading for the public to do their part during the latest COVID surge.
During a virtual news conference Wednesday, ER Physician and Medical Director for EMS at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Hospital Dr. Essie Reed says the high number of admitted COVID patients is two weeks ahead of the surge at this time last year, “We want to do better and we need your help. Our patients are seeing 10-20 hour wait times to be seen in the emergency department, and we’re starting to practice waiting room medicine, which is something I never imagined I would see in my career. We’re starting oxygen on COVID patients in the hallway and those hallways beds are often double and triple bunked.”
Geisinger President and CEO Dr. Jaewon Ryu says system wide total inpatient beds are at 110% capacity – that’s the same at the Danville campus alone, with 23% of those being COVID patients. Dr. Ryu says Geisinger Shamokin is at 115% capacity, with 42% being COVID patients. The most alarming is the Jersey Shore campus at 130% capacity, with 61% COVID patients.
Dr. Reed shared stories reflecting the highly concerning numbers, “I recently saw a young man in his late 20s who is six months post COVID. He’s still on oxygen and may never be able to come off. I recently took care of a married couple who refused the vaccine and proven therapies that my brilliant infectious disease colleagues have vetted and they both prematurely left their family members behind them.”
But Dr. Reed says strained resources are not just from COVID, as there are a rise of other upper respiratory cases such as RSV, along with other medical emergencies, and there’s an increase of behavioral health needs.
She also says ambulatory resources are also strained, “Our EMS providers are stacking up in the emergency department waiting for beds as we are struggling to find room for patients. So when you call 911, we want them to have quick turnaround times because we want them to be there for you. We don’t want an ambulance to have to come from the other end of the county to make it to your emergency.”
Dr. Ryu says Geisinger is also constantly dialing back on elective procedures, or even having to prioritize procedures that need to be addressed quickly, like heart valve repairs. Geisinger officials say the public can help by getting vaccinated or boosted, masking up, and avoiding large indoor gatherings during the holiday season.