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Southside COVID beds are maxed out

The increase in cases in the Farmville area is now being felt in the COVID unit at Centra Southside Community Hospital. Centra officials said Thursday, Jan. 7, the hospital’s 14 beds designated for COVID-19 patients have been maxed out.

“They have flexed all the way up to 14 COVID beds and, as of this morning, all of those beds are full,” Dr. Christopher Lewis, vice president of medical affairs at Centra, said of the Centra Southside location. Lewis said 10 of the hospital’s 14 beds have been consistently filled the past several weeks with the 14-bed capacity being hit periodically.

Lewis said the hospital’s regular beds were almost at capacity as well.

“They are certainly strained,” he said.

Lewis added while Lynchburg General had some space as of Thursday, the hospital is seeing many of the same issues being experienced in the Farmville area. The Lynchburg facility currently has 105 COVID-positive patients. That’s down from a high of 114. Twenty-one of those patients are in the ICU with 19 of the 21 on ventilators.

Centra CEO Andy Mueller said the overall system and the staffing is reaching a breaking point even before the effects of the Christmas and New Year’s holidays are fully realized. Centra currently has 354 caregivers on furlough who have either been exposed or tested positive for COVID-19.

“We just continue to do what we can. We don’t break. We continue to bend, but even in an organization that doesn’t break and bends, I’ve got to be honest, we’re starting to get close to the breaking point,” he said.

He added that part of the challenge for Centra is that every other health care system in the multi-state region is having the same issues, meaning there is no place to divert patients to if needed.

“My fear is that if we’re not careful and the numbers continue to grow, we may have to think about how we are going to provide care,” he said. “It’s already incredibly challenging, and I don’t want us to end up being like the folks in Southern California who are having to make difficult decisions about who gets care and who doesn’t. We’re not that far away from that here.”

National Public Radio reported this week that paramedics in Los Angeles are being told to conserve oxygen supplies and to not transport patients who have low chances of survival.

Mueller said the fears health systems had back at the beginning of the pandemic of overwhelmed health systems seem to be happening now.

“A lot of what we feared possibly could happen back in March of this year looks like it is probably going to happen here in the next couple of months,” he said. “So these are going to be challenging times for all of us moving forward.”

On the vaccine front, the hospital reported that 4,410 doses of the vaccine have been given to caregivers so far.

Lewis asked the community to stay strong, saying the next few weeks have the potential to be extremely challenging.

“We are in a dark place right now, and it may well get darker, and it will likely get darker before the dawn,” Lewis said. “But we are in this together. We need to all together make this last push. It’s going to be hard for a few weeks, but we would ask for the community to stay strong and please continue to mask and distance. We need to get through this last phase together.”