Avoyelles Parish COVID count expected to reach 900 this week
While the number of cases of coronavirus continue to increase in Avoyelles Parish, most cases are mild and not life-threatening. However, the disease has sent many Avoyelles Parish residents to hospitals and has claimed 24 lives in the past four months.
As of this past Monday's noon update, the state was reporting Avoyelles had had 842 cases since March. That number increased to 851 on Wednesday.
State officials claim any "duplicate" test results detected earlier in the pandemic have been removed and the state figures represent individual cases.
The rate of new cases would put the parish's total over 900 by the end of the week -- unless the prayed for "flattening of the curve" occurs.
While hospitalization of COVID patients is a concern in some areas of the state, Avoyelles Hospital has a different COVID-related problem.
The Marksville hospital has available beds for patients, but a staffing shortage caused by some employees with the disease, others who have health issues or family health issues that make it too dangerous to work in the hospital environment, and a requirement to prevent staff working with COVID patients from also serving non-COVID patients, hospital chief-of-staff Dr. James Bordelon said.
"Volume-wise, the hospital is not at capacity," Bordelon said. "There are beds available. But staffing-wise, we are getting stretched thin."
Avoyelles Hospital has 49 beds, but "we can only handle 15 to 20 right now due to the staff shortage," Bordelon said.
"We have the same problem that Cabrini and Rapides are having in that regard," Bordelon added, referring to two large hospitals in Alexandria.
As of Monday (July 27), Avoyelles had five COVID patients in the hospital with none in the ICU. The hospital had two COVID patients die in the ICU last week.
Bordelon, who is also parish coroner, said Bunkie General does not treat many in-patient COVID cases.
Avoyelles Hospital CEO Tim Curry said he holds conference calls with other hospital officials around the state, and they all have the same main problem.
"The beds are available," Curry said, "but they don't have the staff to serve the patients they have."
"Our nurses and nurse assistants have been very dedicated and loyal during this time," he said. "We have had some staffing difficulties, but not to the extent that other hospitals are having."
Curry said he has had some success recruiting new nurses, even with the pandemic raging, but the staff is still stretched.
"Some hospitals have had to hire nurses through private agencies," Curry said. "We have not had to do that yet, but I have secured contracts with agencies just in case they are needed. If we do get into an immediate bind, I don't want to be caught unprepared and have to wait for them to meet our request. With a contract, we will be guaranteed to have someone that day."
Because Avoyelles is part of a group of hospitals in the state, the local hospital has been able meet some needs by sharing resources, supplies, staff and available beds with its sister medical centers. That has helped make the current tight times a bit more bearable.
There have been several hospitalizations and a few deaths in the hospital during the pandemic, Curry said. During this time, he said, the hospital's doctors have treated numerous COVID patients and "have done a phenomenal job" of meeting patients' needs, treating them and discharging them home to recover.