Louisiana doctors cancel brain surgery to deal with influx of Covid patients

The state has one of the nation’s lowest vaccination rates, with only 37.1 per cent of adults fully vaccinated

Graig Graziosi
Tuesday 03 August 2021 18:35
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The coronavirus pandemic has so ravaged Louisiana that health workers in the state are canceling elective and non-critical surgeries to keep themselves from drowning in Covid patients.

NOLA.com reported on Monday that Louisiana's Governor John Bel Edwards addressed the press concerning the growing number of infections in his state.

"Looking ahead to tomorrow, we've reported more hospitalizations than at any other point in the pandemic," Mr Edwards said. "We're the worst in the country in terms of this COVID surge, and that is because of the Delta variant, which is a game-changer."

He said that unless "something miraculous happens," Tuesday would bring the "largest number of hospitalized Covid patients throughout Louisiana than at any prior point."

Louisiana is currently leading the nation in cases per capita, with 89 infections per 100,000 person. The national average is 24 per 100,00. The state also has one of the nation's lowest vaccination rates, with only 37.1 per cent of adults fully vaccinated, according to CDC data. Nationally, just about half of American adults have been vaccinated.

Healthcare workers in state have warned that the current patient load in hospitals is unsustainable. Federal workers have even been recruited to help ease the burden on the hospitals, but the extra help has not been enough to ensure that every patient receives appropriate attention and care.

Dr Catherine O'Neal, the chief medical officer at Lake Region Medical Centre in Baton Rouge and a professor at LSU Health New Orleans, told NOLA.com that "we are no longer giving adequate care to these patients."

"I have seen people in four-wheeler accidents and motorcycle accidents and farming accidents in the last two weeks, who sat in their ERs in their small towns," the doctor said. "Those are my people. Those are your family members. And when they get maimed, they are not coming to a trauma center, because there are no more beds."

At North Oaks Hospital, 62 staff members have contracted Covid, leaving the remaining workers over burdened and exhausted. Some surgeries - like those for brain aneurysms - have been shelved until more staff - and space - is available for the operations.

The hospital's CEO Michelle Sutton said that North Oaks had to discontinue elective surgeries because recovery rooms have been turned into makeshift intensive care units to house coronavirus patients.

Children's hospitals are also feeling the squeeze brought on by the virus. Dr Mark Line, the physician-in-chief of Children's Hospital New Orleans told NOLA.com that the hospital has admitted as many as 20 patients on some days, dwarfing previous pandemic highs of seven patients. He noted that the children coming in are not all immunocompromised, stating that half are "perfectly healthy" beyond their infection.

"I am as worried about our children today as I have ever been," Dr Kline said. "This virus, the Delta variant of COVID, is every infectious disease specialist's and epidemiologist's worst nightmare."

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