MS hospitals overwhelmed, may stop ICU transfers in COVID

University of Mississippi Medical Center Communications clarified on Friday that the hospitals at UMMC — University Hospital, the Conerly Critical Care Tower, Wiser Hospital, and Children’s of Mississippi — would never close. Dr. Alan Jones meant that UMMC might have to close its doors to patient transfers.

This story has been updated to reflect those announcements.

Mississippi’s top health care system sounded the alarm on Wednesday over how flooded they are with skyrocketing COVID-19 cases, indicating a possible end to its critical patient transfers. And they aren’t the only hospital facing severe pressure across the state.

Dr. Alan Jones, associate vice chancellor for clinical affairs and COVID-19 clinical response leader at University of Mississippi Medical Center, told WJTV on Wednesday that UMMC and other hospital systems in the state are “at a breaking point.”

“We are not [infinite] resources. We can break. We can have to close,” he said. “I think we’re rapidly heading to that direction.”

The Mississippi State Department of Health confirmed the stress on health care systems statewide during a press conference on Thursday — only eight beds are available in the state across four hospitals. A closure of UMMC, which has the state’s only trauma center and pediatric hospital, would be detrimental, said Jim Crag, the Mississippi health department director of health protection.

UMMC Assistant Director for Media Relations Ruth Ingram Cummins in an email to the Sun Herald on Friday said that the medical center’s hospitals would never close, Jones had meant that a possible stop to patient transfers could be imminent.

“What Dr. Jones meant was that as things get worse, UMMC might have to close its doors to patient transfers, something we would never want to do as the state’s only Level I trauma center that takes care of the sickest of the sick,” she said.

MSDH on Thursday reported 1,147 hospitalized COVID patients in hospitals, with 209 patients in intensive care units, 150 of which are on ventilators. Coronavirus-related hospitalizations in the state have increased by 1,160% over the last 45 days.

Delta does not seem to be slowing down—3,264 new COVID cases were reported in Mississippi on Thursday, marking the fourth day there has been a single-day report over 3,000 cases in the state.

“We are seeing some enormous pressure on the health care system because of the increased hospitalization fed by the increased cases that we’re seeing in the state,” Craig said. “A lot of hospitals are at capacity. We’re bedding patients that should have been in an ICU in an emergency room, because there’s limited space.”

The University of Mississippi Medical Center also runs the state’s central transfer system, Mississippi Med-Com, which coordinates all transfers requiring ICU level care for COVID and non-COVID patients.

MSDH mandated last Wednesday all licensed hospitals in Mississippi participate in the COVID-19 System of Care Plan, which requires all transfers for critical care services that cannot be accommodated by the normal referral processes will be sent through Med-Com.

The best way to relieve the health care system is to get more people vaccinated, said Craig.

“Do the things we’ve been talking about. Stay out of those large groups, wear the mask, good hygiene and all the things that we’ve been saying over and over.”

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