Anthony Aquilina, Executive Vice President at WellSpan Health said yesterday that the number of COVID patients in Wellspan hospitals has increased by over 600 percent over the past few weeks and that things were likely to get a lot worse.
“Over the next two weeks, we expect hospital cases to double,” he said.
Currently, one in three Wellspan hospital patients are being treated for COVID-19 and the current wave of infections is not expected to peak until early- or mid-January.
Hospitals have already been forced to close clinics, re-purpose buildings, move patients, and relocate staff (Please see our related story).
Aquilina said a big problem is that COVID patients stay an average of 11 days in the hospital, as opposed to about six days for those with flu.
Aquilina said COVID is a much more serious disease than the flu noting that in the worst recent flu season, 2017-2018, 256 people died from it in Pennsylvania.
Aquilina sad that COVID has already killed over 11,000 people in the state.
Aquina also noted that it is not only older patients who die. “Our care teams watch younger people, middle-aged people, and older people succumb to this disease every day.”
Wellspan President and Chief Executive Officer Roxanna Gapstur said the most significant challenge for is staffing, and the number of staff members who are furloughed due to COVID has increased by 70 percent over the past few weeks.
Gasptur said over one-half the Wellspan workforce has been tested and that over 430 employees were currently on furlough.
Gapstur said there have already been about 1,300 positive cases among Wellspan staff and two deaths.
“It’s been a tough road for our team members. They are tired. We need healthy team members to adequately care for our community.” (Roxanna Gasper)
Gapstur said the virus is being passed by members of the community, often unknowingly. “We must all remain vigilant. Following masking guidelines is important because we know the virus is spread through droplets,” said Gapstur.
Aquina said infection rates are substantially higher in Hispanic and African American communities and that Wellspan was working to ameliorate this problem.
The demand for testing is grown exponentially in the county as has the need for mental health care.
Gapstur said Wellspan is not charging patients for any COVID-19 related issues. “We don’t anyone in South Central Pennsylvania to forgo treatment.”
Limit gathering sizes, wash your hands, wear your face mask. Even small gatherings increase the rate of in-person spread.
People who have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 for over 15 minutes or who have symptoms can get a test by calling a primarily care provider, urgent care, or the Wellspan health hotline at 855.851.3641
Aquilina said Wellspan was working to be ready when vaccines were available and that inoculations would likely start for essential workers and people 65 or over in late December.
Aquilina said that although it was stressed, the Wellspan staff was doing an amazing job. “We are here for you, no matter what,” he said.
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