Hospital sees surge in COVID hospitalizations as emergency responders run low on staff

Published: Aug. 6, 2021 at 6:44 PM EDT
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JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - Onslow Memorial Hospital has had an over 500% increase in the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the past week since the beginning of July.

“We went from averaging about 5 patients in the beginning of July, to about 25 patients in the past week. So that was an over 500% in COVID patients who are currently hospitalized,” said Dr. Steven Spencer of Onslow Memorial Hospital. In the spring, Dr. Spencer says the hospitalization numbers had tapered off and at one point, “We even had one day where we had zero [COVID-19]patients in the hospital.”

“We were able to relax a lot of our social distancing and our masking mandates, and then we had the delta variant with its high transmissibility,” said Dr. Spencer.

Dr. Spencer went on to explain how the increase in hospitalizations comes at an inconvenient time for the hospital who is currently suffering from staffing shortages.

The delta variant’s effects and staffing shortages are also being felt first-hand by Onslow County Emergency services who were already suffering from 16 vacant staff positions, and are now another 12 employees short after they tested positive for COVID-19.

The county has since reached out to other counties in the state seeking assistance to accommodate staffing shortages. Stanly County EMS came to Jacksonville on Wednesday to provide vehicles and paramedics to assist Onslow County.

When asked why he felt it was important to lend a hand, Stanly County EMS paramedic Max Bolgrin said, “EMS is just a big family. We’re all here for each other and to support each other as a community. So whether we’re serving here in Onslow County, or out in Stanly County, we’re just here to help and make sure everybody’s safe and make sure everybody gets through this together.”

Onslow County continues to communicate with neighboring counties who are struggling with staffing, as well as counties around the state to discuss solutions to staffing concerns.

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