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‘This surge hasn’t peaked yet,’ hospital association official says of state COVID-19 patient demand

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The reported number of people being treated for COVID-19 at hospitals in West Virginia remained at a pandemic high of 463 in Tuesday reporting from the state Department of Health and Human Resources.

“Although we’re at record level in terms of hospitalizations, we’re not yet in the position that other states are in, like in the Midwest,” said Tony Gregory, vice president of legislative affairs for the West Virginia Hospital Association.

Of the people in hospitals because of COVID-19, DHHR information showed patients in intensive care totaled 129 with 51 on ventilators.

The ICU and ventilator numbers were down some from records set earlier in the week.

However, “The reality is this surge hasn’t peaked yet in West Virginia and it appears we are looking at months until it does,” Gregory cautioned.

Ahead of Thanksgiving, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation was projecting hospital demand for COVID-19 treatment in West Virginia would reach its highest levels in the entire coronavirus pandemic in January.

That was only a projection that was subject to change.

The West Virginia Hospital Association is a not-for-profit organization representing 59 hospitals and health systems across the Mountain State.

As of Nov. 24, Gregory said hospitals had the staff and equipment to manage patient loads.

Healthcare providers, he said, used slower periods during the summer to stockpile personal protective equipment, PPE, and to plan for different potential surge scenarios.

Gregory said lessons have also been learned from other states.

Those with the West Virginia Hospital Association remain part of a cooperative effort with state, local and hospital officials to coordinate the maintenance of bed space at larger hospitals while also supporting smaller community hospitals.

“We’re just exploring all avenues to ensure we have capacity throughout the entire state,” Gregory said.

Officials with both WVU Medicine and Mon Health System provided capacity updates during recent appearances on MetroNews “Talkline.”

If necessary, facilities had the option of again ramping down elective procedures, as was done in the early days of the pandemic, to address COVID care and staffing demands, but Gregory said that was not happening at this point.

Surge plans could also be implemented, additional COVID-19 units could be opened or more staff deployed.

“In recent weeks, it is a little more concerning that it has been,” Gregory said of COVID patient numbers.

“We’re confident that the tireless work by our 46,000 healthcare professionals puts West Virginia hospitals and health systems in the best possible position to move swiftly when presented with a surge of COVID patients while still being able to safely maintain non-COVID services.”

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