Hospitals across Mississippi said they were still in crisis Monday — not from fallout of Hurricane Ida, but because of the continued surge of COVID-19 patients.
Despite massive power outages across the state as the historic storm ripped through, several Mississippi hospitals reported having little to no disruption of care because of the severe weather. One hospital in Pike County lost power for several hours, but generators kept the storm from affecting patients.
Still, intensive care units across Mississippi remain at or near capacity as hospitals manage staff shortages and high numbers of COVID-19 patients. Doctors, nurses and hospital staff continue to pull long shifts to manage the ongoing stress of a health care system that doesn’t have enough workers.
“In south Mississippi and throughout the state, we are in crisis,” said April LaFontaine, Gulfport Memorial Hospital’s chief administrative officer. “Our hospital was full before the hurricane, and we’re still full now.”
Memorial had 240 patients Monday, including 88 with COVID-19. More than two dozen were hooked up to ventilators.
Ida walloped southern Louisiana, leaving all of New Orleans without power. Mississippi hospitals say they’ve been more fortunate with little disruption, even as more than 75,000 Mississippians remained without power by Monday at 5 p.m.
Vaccine and testing clinics have been closed across the state, with many planning to resume care Tuesday. Emergency rooms remained open Sunday and Monday, even when the worst of Ida downed power lines and flooded roadways.
LaFontaine’s biggest concern remains COVID-19 spread, especially during a time when people want to help their neighbors by sharing power or cleaning up debris.
“People in this community want to do the right thing and want to do the neighborly thing and help their neighbors clean up,” she said. “But if people have COVID, or suspect they have COVID, the more neighborly thing to do is not share the love in that matter.”
In Jackson, neither University of Mississippi Medical Center or Baptist Memorial Hospital weathered damages, power outages or patient care disruptions related to Hurricane Ida.
Admissions were paused at UMMC’s field hospitals — which are set up inside parking garages — Monday morning while the storm passed over Jackson. They resumed accepting patients by 3 p.m.
Southwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center in McComb was without power for nearly 12 hours overnight Sunday into late Monday morning, but was able to rely on generators until power returned Monday at 11:45 a.m. The hospital lost power again Monday afternoon because of a downed electrical pole.
Pike County, where the hospital is located, continued to have one of the highest numbers of people without power in the state late Monday afternoon.
Singing River Health System, which has three Gulf Coast hospitals, reported no major disruptions. It had one of its slowest emergency room days Sunday than it has had in the last six weeks, officials said.
Hospitals are hoping there is not an influx of patients who come in because of accidents during storm clean up or driving before debris is cleaned from roadways.
“We need to keep ERs clear for our first responders,” LaFontaine said.