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Ochsner says fourth surge affecting its ability to care for non-COVID patients

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BATON ROUGE - Like many other businesses, Ochsner Health announced Tuesday it's mandating the COVID vaccine for their employees. The consequences of refusal will be severe.

Ochsner says if employees don't get vaccinated, they'll be suspended for a month, and if they don't get vaccinated in that time they'll be fired.

While positive signs are showing in this latest COVID surge, Ochsner says many people are still needing care.

"I would say that we're concerned because we've seen it decline from the peak, but we haven't seen a continued decline day after day that we saw in the first three surges," Ochsner Health President and CEO Warner Thomas said.

Organization-wide, there are 979 COVID patients in Ochsner hospitals Tuesday, down from 1,034 a week ago. About 88% of them are unvaccinated. It's impacting the hospital's ability to care for other patients. Since the last week in July, Ochsner says it's delayed over 5,000 surgeries and procedures across the system.

And staffing issues continue. There's currently a national search effort to recruit more nurses, but Ochsner officials say it's a tough task as a result of the virus within their ranks. Tuesday, there are 366 employees in quarantine.

"Folks will have until the end of OctoberOct. 29to be fully vaccinated in order to continue to be scheduled to work," Thomas said.

Ochsner says right now, there are no pediatric patients in their ICU or on ventilators. There is concern that could change.

"If they're not wearing a mask in school, there's no doubt we'll see increases in patients getting sick," Ochsner Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Robert Hart said.

The system is seeing more cases in pregnant women.

"Some are winding up in the intensive care unit, some are unfortunately having to be intubated and ventilated," Ochsner Health System Medical Director of Hospital Quality Dr. Sandra Kemmerly said.

While it reports more patients are needing a ventilator to breathe, Ochsner says it is administering more vaccinations. It also reports testing is way up, and so far it has had no issues with supplies. Ochsner also asks people not to come to the emergency room for a COVID test, which has been problem.


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