NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Just 6% of beds in COVID-19 units across Middle Tennessee remain, according to Mayor John Cooper's office. Health officials made the announcement during a press conference Thursday morning. Overall, the state has a 9% capacity remaining.
Dr. Lisa Piercey, Commissioner of TN Department of Health, said capacity issues are not limited by the number of beds per se, but by low staffing levels across the state.
"When you look at surge capacity, it’s how many staff members can they bring in to staff these beds," said Piercey. "Before this started there was a nursing shortage and a shortage of other professionals and we’re starting to feel that very acutely.”
While Vanderbilt University Medical Center is reporting adequate staffing, they're still moving nurses across units to help combat the surge in severe cases of the virus.
“In the last two weeks our volumes have gone up and they’ve probably gone up two-fold, maybe two and a half fold from kind of where we were before that. It’s busy," said Dr. Todd Rice, Vanderbilt COVID-19 ICU Director.
Dr. Rice said the people coming into the COVID-19 ICU often stay there for up to a month or more.
“They’re the sickest patients we have in the hospital. They all have respiratory failure. So, they’re all having problems breathing. Most of them need a ventilator to help them breathe and they need a lot of support from the ventilator to help them breathe. So, they’re really really sick. The other part that’s very unique about them is they stay that sick for a long period of time,” he said.
Pulling staff members away from other units has a negative impact on the entire hospital. Patients in the non-COVID units suffer from lesser treatment, he said.
“This capacity issue isn’t only for COVID. It means that if you get bad pneumonia or something from COVID and you need an ICU, then there aren’t many ICU beds or no ICU beds. So, even providing care to people who are sick who don’t have COVID is going to be affected by this kind of capacity problem,” said Dr. Rice.
He suggested people keep listening to the advice of the CDC. He said mask-wearing, hand washing and staying six feet apart could help the hospital stay within its capacity.