PRINCETON — Princeton Community Hospital has no ICU beds available because of the increase in COVID-related patients, and the problem is being experienced all around the state.

Karen Bowling, PCH President and CEO, said Tuesday when patients are admitted to the hospital and need to be in an ICU unit they will stay in the Emergency Department until a bed becomes available at PCH or elsewhere in the state.

“All of the ICUs in our geographic area and across the state of West Virginia and in our surrounding states are full,” she said. “The challenge is, when people need a higher level of care, there is no place to send them … All of the hospitals are in the same situation.”

Bowling said patients can get an ICU bed when there is a recovery, enough improvement to leave ICU or death.

It is a problem for emergency rooms across the state, she said, and everyone is doing the best they can to care for patients because they don’t have an available ICU bed and must care for those patients as well.

Bowling also said that is why it is crucial now for people not to visit the Emergency Department for minor issues or medical problems that be handled elsewhere.

“Our emergency rooms are not the place to come unless you are really sick,” she said.

No end to the problem is in sight.

“I believe as long as we are in this surge it is going to be the ongoing situation,” she said, adding that she expects the numbers related to COVID to keep rising.

The DHHR (Department of Health and Human Resources) COVID dashboard today shows 247 confirmed COVID cases in ICUs around the state, a pandemic record, as well as 132 on ventilators, also a record number.

Bowling said as the positive cases rise so do the hospitalizations, patients who need ICU care, patients on ventilators, and then the deaths that can inevitably follow.

Several factors are also involved in the coming weeks that mean the situation could worsen.

Bowling said that about 20 percent of the COVID patients around the country are kids and “we are seeing sicker kids.”

With the flu season coming and people not wearing masks, that is another factor as well as the continued surge that has not yet peaked.

“Everybody is on high alert, understanding there is a multitude of things that are going on that can be a perfect storm to continue the stress on our health care system,” she said. “That worries us, it worries me. It keeps me up at night.”

In the meantime, patients who come to PCH and need care will be taken care of, she said, thanks to a dedicated staff who are “heroes” as they come in and work extra hours and do everything they can to make sure all patients are treated.

“The best way the community can help is to get vaccinated and wear a mask,” she said, emphasizing that vaccinations are the way out of this.

Contact Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com.

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