’We’re seeing a lot of sick people’: COVID-19 hospitalizations double, triple at Grand Strand hospitals

Local healthcare workers stretched thin due to COVID-19 surge

CONWAY, S.C. (WMBF) - As COVID-19 cases continue to spike following the holidays, so does COVID-19 hospitalizations.

Right now, 2,424 people are hospitalized with COVID-19 in South Carolina.

At Grand Strand hospitals, the number of patients with the virus has either doubled or tripled in the past month.

“Both in numbers and level of acuity. We’re seeing a lot of sick people,” Dr. Paul Richardson, Conway Medical Center’s chief operating officer, said.

In the Grand Strand and Pee Dee, hospitals are near or at full capacity. Currently, Conway Medical Center has an overall capacity of 93% percent.

The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 went from 23 patients in early December to 43 patients as of Wednesday morning.

“I think we’re still in the midst of the Christmas bump and the New Year’s bump still coming, unfortunately, likely. I hope I’m wrong,” Richardson said.

Richardson said their numbers are nearly as high as the summer surge.

“Our numbers are basically back to like the surge we had during the June, July, and August type period,” he said. “Is it taxing? Absolutely.”

Grand Strand Health said the hospital occupancy is at 100%, and 73 patients have COVID-19.

Meanwhile, Tidelands Health is over its capacity at 112% with 67 COVID-19 patients. Last month, there were only 17 COVID-19 patients.

Dr. Gerald Harmon, the vice president of medical affairs at Tidelands Health, said they’ve had to postponed certain elective surgeries because of it.

“In addition to treating all the sick people, we’re taking on the role of vaccinating the healthy people that don’t want to be getting sick,” Harmon said. “So, we have a lot of things going on.”

After 10 months of fighting the pandemic, healthcare workers are dealing with what Harmon calls ‘COVID response fatigue’.

“We’re tired of having to look for a fresh mask, a new set of booties, all the personal protection equipment,” Harmon said.

However, that doesn’t mean we need to let our guard down, Harmon said. As vaccine rollout continues, the doctors urge people to keep social distancing and wear face masks.

“I go in this building every day and see the results of not doing this,” Richardson said. “Not social distancing, not wearing masks and the results of that are in this building right here and a lot of them.”

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