Augusta Health closes secondary ICU as COVID-positive inpatient census drops

Published: Oct. 27, 2021 at 5:41 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA COUNTY, Va. (WHSV) - Augusta Health’s secondary pandemic-era intensive care unit (ICU) has closed, and officials say they’re ready to get back to normal operations, but a few other things need to fall into place.

“The secondary ICU that we’d opened up a few months ago, that has closed, so we’re now back to our 14-bed ICU,” Scott Crabtree, Assistant Vice President of Professional Services for Augusta Health, said.

Crabtree says their COVID-positive inpatient census has dropped, and he says they’ve kept that number in the 20s most days in recent weeks.

While the stresses of COVID are mostly easing, Crabtree says Augusta Health is facing another problem.

“Across the nation, there’s a very serious nursing shortage, specifically RN shortage, and Augusta Health has not been immune to that,” Crabtree said.

They’re making cuts where they can to account for the shortage, but because there aren’t enough nurses, there have to be fewer patients.

“We anticipate that our inpatient census capacity will probably be reduced by about 40%,” Crabtree said.

The inpatient capacity limits will be reduced over the next few weeks, Crabtree says, and they’ll work on hiring new employees. As staffing allows, Crabtree says they’ll bring capacity limits back up.

“It is going to continue to place a lot of stress and strain on our system because at the end of the day we’re still going to end up being short-staffed, especially from a nursing standpoint,” Crabtree said.

Not only do they lack nurses, but Crabtree says they’re also seeing more COVID-negative patients than usual.

“I’m not sure if that’s where maybe individuals have postponed getting care during the pandemic, but the patients we’re seeing overall are typically a little sicker than what we normally see,” he said.

As they work through the nursing shortage, Crabtree says it’s important to redeploy staff back to their home departments.

“We’ve had RNs and other professionals as well working outside of their home departments out of necessity, and we’ve done what we needed to do and staff have been troopers in doing the same,” Crabtree said.

With that, they’ll work to get elective surgeries back on track. For information on Augusta Health, visit their website.

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