Baton Rouge, Louisiana
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BRG ICU faces fourth COVID surge and staff shortage

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BATON ROUGE - As the state faces its fourth surge BRG is feeling the strain in their ICUs with beds and ventilators going fast saying this July's surge is more drastic than last July's.

While on the outside of Baton Rouge General is quiet on the inside, the staff is burning out. ICUs that were for post-surgery and other illnesses are quickly turning into COVID units.

"In the past week, we have built two new ICU's dedicated to coronavirus, expanded into a third and are already planning our fourth ICU," said Stephen Brierre, Chief of Pulmonary and Critical Care.

When you walk into the unit you'll see many rooms with patients on ventilators of all ages.

"We're seeing younger people, people with no comorbidities and they are getting sicker and they are getting sicker faster, it's scary," said Jordan Miller a Nurse at BRG.

But, not as many health care workers as expected.

"Given the nursing shortages that we have, we're having to change our usual care practices, change nurse to patients rations and all the things just to care for all the patients," said Brierre.

It's a shortage that's taking a toll on healthcare workers like Jordan who's been a nurse for five years and worked through every surge.

"Our nurses are suffering from it, mentally, physically and we are exhausted. This fourth wave to me is definitely worse than the second and third," said Miller.

The increase of COVID patients has put such a strain on hospitals like Our Lady of the Lake to the point that they put a temporary pause on non-emergency surgeries. While BRG says they aren't there just yet.

"We'll start decreasing our elective surgical cases so that we can use those nurses to help care for COVID patients," said Brierre.

Now, only time will tell how much more BRG can take saying this is only the beginning.

"They're getting tired and we're only really one week into this most recent surge. We have many weeks to go because the patients that survive in the hospitals are in the ICU for a long time," said Brierre.

Begging everyone if you haven't yet, get the shot.

"If you don't vaccinate for yourself, vaccinate for the people you come in contact with because you could potentially save one of their lives if you don't transmit the virus," said Brierre.

"Please get vaccinated. Sometimes I want people to just see, to walk through these units and really just see what is happening inside to know how scary it is," said Miller.

At the beginning of this month, BRG only had 10 COVID patients, now they have 71 across both locations. They do still have beds and ventilators available, and they are performing elective surgeries.


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