Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi, Oxford’s primary care center, declared a state of internal emergency. In addition, the city of Oxford has requested a military mobile hospital that will provide fifty additional beds.
This comes after weeks of rising cases of the coronavirus across Mississippi, where the Delta variant has been ravaging the state, making the pandemic the worst it has been to date.
As of Thursday, Aug. 26, there are 45 COVID-19 patients at Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi. Eleven intensive care unit beds are occupied by COVID-19 patients.
In a special meeting of the Board of Aldermen on Aug. 24, Mayor Robyn Tannehill said, “Our hospital system, quite honestly, is failing.”
Dr. Mac Nichols, an emergency room physician at Baptist Memorial Hospital, described the hospital as being stressed, but doing everything they can to provide for patients that are admitted.
“It certainly does not hinder any of our ability to provide care,” Nichols said. “It’s simply a way to prioritize resources, as I understand it.”
He describes being in an emergency room as being in a “bubble,” but still feeling the stress that increased COVID-19 positivity rates and hospitalizations are placing on the hospital.
“It gets challenging,” he said. “It gets hard. We’re at a crisis point.”
Nichols describes the prospect of extra hands in the form of nurses and the possibility of beds provided by the military mobile hospital as a “pressure relief valve.”
“If the entire hospital was full because we either don’t have enough staff or we’re physically out of space, you can either take 50 people out of the hospital and put them in the mobile unit or open the mobile unit for ER admissions, well, then you can just keep your ER moving freely,” Nichols said.
Nichols’ biggest fear is receiving a high number of ER patients on a day like game day and not being able to accommodate the volume because of a crowded hospital.
“My nightmare scenario is, we’re still in this COVID surge, we’re still full, and we get 20 boarders in the ER when we only have 10 beds,” he said. “We haven’t had that scenario yet, but we’re at risk of it.”
Nichols emphasizes that the simplest thing people can do is get vaccinated and implores the public to be patient and understanding as the hospital does their best.
“[The staff] are stressed and as overworked as a human being can be. But they’re in it and they keep doing it. The nurses and staff in the hospital are strong and resilient, and they’ll be okay,” Nichols said. “But they need patience and appreciation. The nurses, the techs, the radiology techs, the lab, the phlebotomists, all the staff that make up the hospital.”