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SC hospitals seeing more COVID-19 patients amid Omicron surge, but shorter hospital stays for patients

“You have this kind of nasty combination of more people needing care and more people getting...
“You have this kind of nasty combination of more people needing care and more people getting sick which also impacts our healthcare workers,” Melanie Matney, South Carolina Hospital Association Chief Operating Officer, said.(WIS)
Published: Jan. 18, 2022 at 9:49 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 18, 2022 at 11:45 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - As South Carolina continues to set pandemic records for COVID-19 cases, hospitals are feeling the strain.

The South Carolina Hospital Association (SCHA) says that more people are needing care at hospitals across the state due to the contagiousness of the Omicron.

“You have this kind of nasty combination of more people needing care and more people getting sick which also impacts our healthcare workers,” Melanie Matney, South Carolina Hospital Association Chief Operating Officer, said.

As of Tuesday, January 18, more than 78.96 percent of acute care beds at hospitals statewide are occupied. That’s according to data compiled by the SCHA and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.

Additionally, 76.62 percent of all ICU beds are occupied.

Of the hospitals in the state with ICU bed capacity, the SCHA says 20 are at or over 90 percent capacity on Tuesday.

Prisma Health, the state’s largest hospital system, reported 739 COVID-19 hospitalizations on Tuesday. 79 percent of those cases are among the unvaccinated.

The Medical University of South Carolina’s Midlands Division reported 51 COVID-19 patients as of Tuesday, January 18.

These numbers have not reached peak pandemic levels, but Matney believes they could continue to rise.

“Right now we’re very, very high and we expect to be high for at least another couple weeks,” she said.

The surge is causing a volume-driven increase in the number of people who need ICU care. It’s not necessarily because the variant is making people sicker, according to Matney.

“Luckily with this variant, luckily, people are not needing the same level of ICU care,” she said. “The length of stay for this variant is a little shorter than it was for Delta. So we’re seeing a little bit more throughput through the hospitals. You know, people come in but then they can also return home on a fairly faster basis than they were with Delta.”

DHEC and the SCHA keep a close eye on these hospitalization numbers daily.

“We watch both of these, the general acute care and the ICU percent capacity numbers very carefully on what types of beds might we need to create in the state should we reach a point of saturation,” Matney said.

When asked whether there are any current plans to increase hospital bed capacity, Matney said there are not, but it was considered during the Delta surge.

“The good news is that we are set, poised and we could create additional capacity should we absolutely need to,” Matney said.

As the surge continues, Matney says your local hospital will still be able to serve you, but you may have to wait a little longer at the emergency room. One way you can help shorten these wait times, doctors say, is by not to visit the ER for a COVID-19 test. You can click here for a list of testing locations near you.

A recent analysis shows that South Carolina has the steepest two-week increase of COVID-19 cases in the nation, and the 12th-lowest vaccination rate.

DHEC and the SCHA continue to urge vaccination as the best defense against a severe bout with COVID-19 that could lead to hospitalization.

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