UNC Health Southeastern brings in mobile morgue as COVID-19 deaths reach record high

Published: Sep. 1, 2021 at 9:25 PM EDT
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LUMBERTON, N.C. (WMBF) - UNC Health Southeastern’s on-site morgue reached capacity twice in the month of August.

The hospital saw a record 39 COVID-19 related deaths last month, and officials said it left them with no choice but to ask the state for a mobile morgue.

“I don’t think any of us want to get to the point where we want to put a body in a refrigerated truck outside, that just seems wrong,” said Joann Anderson, UNC Health Southeastern CEO.

Anderson expressed her frustration over the rise in hospitalizations and deaths in a recent Facebook post.

She said they’ve pleaded with the community to do their part, but Robeson County remains the least fully vaccinated county in North Carolina.

Things have gotten so bad the hospital decided to discontinue some elected surgeries to allow for more bed space in the hospital.

“I hate that we’ve had to do that, but it’s the right thing for us to be able to have access for an acute illness, we’re at that point. We had to do it with the surge last time, and we were mandated by the governor to do it. We aren’t being mandated today,” Anderson said.

Anderson added people have accused the hospital of sensationalizing the COVID-19 numbers.

She wants the doubters to know this virus is real and people are dying unnecessarily

“I have no reason to inflate numbers, I have no reason to go in a dark place and talk about a morgue, if it’s not real. There’s no advantage for me to put that out there,” Anderson said.

Robeson County is expected to see a COVID-19 peak in October, but Anderson said things could continue to get much worse if people don’t start taking this pandemic seriously.

“Just because you take the vaccine doesn’t mean you’re not going to get COVID, but it means you’re much less likely to be hospitalized, much less likely to be in the ICU, much less likely to die from COVID,” she said.

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