Patients are flooding into Mississippi hospitals, and doctors and nurses have become all too familiar with the widespread denials and misinformation regarding COVID-19 in the nation’s least vaccinated state.
Visitors often try to enter hospitals with no masks, often in denial of the severity of their illness or the virus. Patients’ faces swell with pain when they realize that they have not been vaccinated properly. They share constant misinformation about coronavirus with their medical staff.
“It’s not a good idea to judge in this situation. “It’s not worth telling them that they should have had the vaccine, or you wouldn’t still be here,” Dr. Risa Mouriarity, executive vice-chair of the University of Mississippi Medical Center emergency department, said. We don’t do this. We don’t try to lecture or preach to them. Some are so ill they cannot even communicate with us.
Mississippi’s low vaccination rate of 38%, or 3 million, has caused a surge in hospitalizations and cases that is overwhelming doctors. Workers are exhausted and angry at the increased workload and residents’ refusal to accept the vaccine.
The University of Mississippi Medical Center is the only level-one trauma center in Mississippi that treats the most seriously ill patients.
Nearly all COVID patients are treated in the emergency room and intensive medical unit. Moriarity described it as a “logjam”, with patients being treated in triage areas and beds in hallways. Because they must wait for patients who are in need of care, paramedics take longer to respond to new calls.
According to Dr. Thomas Dobbs, the state’s health officer, four Mississippi women who were pregnant died in a Mississippi hospital last week. Three cases required emergency C-sections, and three babies were severely premature.
Dobbs stated, “This is the reality we’re looking into and, again. None of these individuals were vaccinated.”
Moriarity stated that it is difficult to describe the fatigue she and her coworkers feel. She said that it’s been difficult and heartbreaking to go to work every day.
She said that while most of us have sufficient emotional reserves to be compassionate, you end the day exhausted from the effort required to show compassion to those around you who aren’t taking care of themselves.
LouAnn Woodward, the head of UMMC, cried as she spoke out about the devastating effects on healthcare workers during a recent news conference.
Woodward stated that “We, as a nation, as a whole, have failed in our collective response to a common danger.”
Hospital officials are asking residents to get vaccinated as the virus spreads rapidly. In July, UMMC stated that all 10,000 employees and 3,000 students will be required to have vaccinated or wear a N95 face mask on campus. Leaders revised the policy by August to make sure that vaccination was the only option.
Moriarity stated that this virus surge has caused more stress on morale than any previous peak. In May and June, her team believed that there was an end to the virus despite Mississippi’s low vaccine rate. The hospital’s ICUs were empty, and there were few COVID patients. The hospital was overwhelmed by cases of the delta virus.
The number of Mississippi coronavirus hospitalizations has dropped slightly. On Sept. 1, just under 1,450 people were hospitalized with coronavirus, compared to 1,670 on August 19. They are still much higher than the numbers seen during previous outbreaks of this virus.
Anne Sinclair, an emergency room nurse at the children’s hospital of the medical center, said that she was tired of hearing the same misinformation over and over again, namely that COVID is not a problem for children.
She said, “I have seen children die in my COVID unit, complications of COVID and that’s something you cannot ever forget.”
Sinclair, a parent to a 2-year old and a 5-year old and worried about their safety, said that it was very sobering. “I wish people would look beyond politics and think about their children and families.
Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian relief charity, set up an emergency hospital in the parking lot of UMMC’s children’s hospitals to treat COVID patients.
The hospital can accommodate seven ICU patients and treats an average of 15 patients per day.
Kelly Sites, a nurse who has treated COVID patients in hotspots such as California and Italy, said that it was heartbreaking to learn that some of these severe cases could have been prevented by the vaccine. Many patients can’t speak because they are so sick. Patients will be recited by nurses who carry scripture verses taped to their scrubs.
Samaritan’s Purse, an international disaster relief organisation with multiple missions across the globe, is Samaritan’s Purse. Sites has assisted in 20 missions in Haiti, Liberia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, among other places.
She said, “To respond the United States is quite surreal to us.” It’s difficult because home is usually stable. So when we deploy, it’s just going to the disaster. This is the first time that home has been declared a disaster.