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Gov. Beshear requests federal aid to help hospitals that are stretched thin as COVID cases surge

Published: Aug. 23, 2021 at 10:04 PM EDT
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MOREHEAD, Ky. (WKYT) - Governor Andy Beshear says we are moving from an alarming to critical stage as hospitals across Kentucky face record rates of hospitalization because of COVID-19.

The governor is asking for federal aid to help hospitals that are stretched thin. Facilities are adding COVID units, and in some cases, refrigerator trucks for patients who die.

“This time it was like the door opened and it just kicked it in. We were immediately overwhelmed,” said Steve Haines with Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center.

Facilities in Kentucky are being tested as they treat more patients for COVID-19 than ever before.

“We have doubled in one week. We’ve gone from 17 to 32 in the last week,” St. Claire HealthCare Chief Medical Officer Dr. William Melahn said.

St. Claire Regional Medical Center went to code yellow Monday, meaning they’re having to redistribute resources to treat patients.

“We currently have more critical patients than beds, so we are in a temporary overflow intensive care unit, or we wouldn’t be able to do it,” Dr. Melahn said.

On top of the overwhelming number of patients, St. Claire is facing a staffing shortage.

“We currently are staffed for an average in house census of about 70 to 75. We’ve been running close to 90 to over 100,” said Lerae Wilson, St. Claire HealthCare chief nursing officer.

It’s a similar fight at Ephraim McDowell in Danville. There, the morgue is overrun-- eight deaths in 24 hours. The morgue is only capable of holding three bodies.

“We were frantically scrambling to try to rent a refrigerator truck to take care of these people because the funeral homes couldn’t pick them up fast enough,” Haines said.

Gov. Beshear says he has requested federal aid for facilities that have been hardest hit, asking for nurses and EMS strike teams.

The National Guard is also being deployed to hospitals that are trying to save lives, but the demand is far too overwhelming.

“If we had another disaster happen now, even a small one, we don’t have any resources left,” Dr. Melahn said.

Nearly 1,900 Kentuckians are in the hospital with COVID, and 301 are on a ventilator.

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