Beauregard hospital suspends elective procedures amid COVID battle

Published 7:29 pm Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Medical officials at the Beauregard Health System Hospital in DeRidder are facing dire circumstances this week, as all elective surgeries and procedures have been temporarily halted amid the hospital’s battle against COVID-19.
Chief Medical Officer David Jones said officials will meet Thursday to discuss the plan for elective procedures at the hospital moving forward. He said all available physicians and nurses have been moving from the surgical unit to the emergency department to assist with the overwhelming number of patients seeking medical attention from COVID-19 symptoms.
“It is literally an all-hands-on-deck situation right now. Every day is about adapting and working as hard as we can to take care of our sickest, which right now is our COVID patients,” Jones said.
The rural hospital has been at capacity for weeks, with 100 percent of its ICU beds occupied. According to data provided by the hospital’s health officials, 83 percent of ICU patients are COVID positive and 40 percent of those patients are currently on a ventilator. The average age of a COVID positive ICU patient in DeRidder is 51.
Zero percent, officials said, are vaccinated.
“It’s frustrating and I just don’t understand it. This battle against COVID has been going on for nearly 18 months now and there is no end in sight. The only chance we have of getting ahead of this is through the vaccines, but it’s frustrating when people just won’t do the right thing,” Jones said.
The stress and frustration in Jones’ voice is palpable. He has an extensive medical career spanning more than five decades and has deep roots within the local Beauregard Parish medical community. He is one of the founding partners of the DeRidder Women’s Clinic and has likely had a hand in the delivery of a large amount of the community’s population. Still, Jones said the pandemic and its effects in the community are like nothing he has ever experienced.
“I never, in all my years in medicine, ever thought we would be experiencing something like this. Not in the United States and certainly not in Southwest Louisiana,” he said.
Over recent weeks, hospital officials have added beds to the ICU, but the demand continues to grow. Jones said nurses are being pulled in from surrounding clinics to assist with infusion therapy being offered to COVID patients in an attempt to help keep them from needing to be admitted or intubated.
All this amounts to the greatest of struggles for the community — access to care. Beyond COVID-19, patients experiencing a medical emergency could be faced with the frightening prospect of a lack of access to medical care because of the stress placed on hospitals. While that situation has been playing out in larger hospitals for some time, Jones acknowledged members of the local community may not realize it is also playing out in their hometown hospital.
“Our resources are tapped, and the resources of hospitals around us are as well. If someone has a medical emergency or is involved in a serious traffic accident, the idea of not having anywhere to send them is a very real concern. It is very scary,” Jones said.
Still, at a time when the community’s trust of medical professionals seems at an all-time low, while simultaneously the wave of patients in serious medical need are at an all-time high Jones said the one thing that remains the same is the dedication of the nursing staff.
“The toll on the nursing staff has been tremendous, but they are actually what make me feel better in all of this. They all continue to do what needs to be done, and they do it all with a smile on their faces. They are amazing and I am so proud to have these incredible nurses here at our hospital,” Jones said.
While the next few days, and more so the next few weeks remain completely unknown and unpredictable, Jones said he and the entire medical staff can only do what they do best; care for the sick and look to the community for help in ending the pandemic.
“We need the community to help us. We need people to do the right thing and for us all to work together to end this. That is the only way we can move forward.”