COVID-related staffing shortages affecting hospitals

Published 10:39 am Sunday, January 16, 2022

Rising COVID-19 cases amid the Omicron surge and staffing shortages are straining hospitals across the country.

As of Friday, 20 employees at Jennings American Legion Hospital were infected with COVID-19 or quarantined due to exposure, but most are expected to return to work by Monday, according to the hospital’s Infection Preventionist Phyllis Theriot.

“Staffing is the biggest challenge the hospital is facing in its response to COVID,” Theriot said.

Email newsletter signup

“We started seeing employees with COVID the week before Christmas,” she continued. “Our COVID patient admissions increased right after Christmas. When employees start developing COVID, I have found that this is a leading indicator as to what is going on in our communities.”

The hospital has had to reduce beds in medical surgery and is currently limiting visitors in the emergency department to help alleviate the strain on the operations of the hospital and its staff.

“We would ask for the public’s support of our health care team,” Chief Nursing Officer Brooke Hornsby said. “They have been working with tremendous dedication through five COVID surges and multiple natural disasters in the past two years. If you see a healthcare worker, please thank them for their service to our community.”

Across the parish, 200 new COVID cases have been reported since Jan. 11, according to the Louisiana Department of Health.

Seven COVID patients were in the Jennings hospital as of Friday with 3 of the patients on ventilators.

With 40 percent of the parish’s population vaccinated, health officials are urging unvaccinated people to get vaccinated to protect themselves and others.

“Omicron is evading vaccines’ ability to prevent infection, but it does appear that vaccination is helping to limit the severity of the infection,” Theriot said. “In this wave, 44 percent of our patients with COVID have been fully vaccinated, but their length of stay is shorter.”

Health officials are reminding people not to go to the hospital or emergency room unless they need urgent care. People should not go to the emergency room to get a COVID-19 test.

Free drive-thru testing is available in Jennings American Legion Hospital’s front parking lot 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Monday-Friday. Tests are also available at the Jeff Davis Health Unit, 403 Baker St., Jennings, from 8 a.m-4 p.m. Monday-Wednesday and 8 a.m.-noon Friday.

Testing is also available at the Allen Parish Health Unit, 145 Hospital Drive, Oakdale from 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Thursdays only and the Beauregard Parish Health Unit, 215 Evangeline Street, DeRidder from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 8 a.m.-noon on Friday.

In Calcasieu Parish, testing is available 8 a.m-4 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 8 a.m.-noon Friday at the Calcasieu Parish Health Unit, 3236 Kirkman Street, Lake Charles and the Sulphur Health Unit, 201 Edgar Street. Tests are also offered 8 a.m.-3 p.m. daily at Lake Charles Memorial Hospital, corner of Second Avenue and 18th Street, Lake Charles.