‘We are afraid’: Le Bonheur official warns COVID-19 surge could push hospitals to their limit


MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The chief medical officer at Methodist Le Bonheur Olive Branch issues a candid and dire warning as the hospital system nears a breaking point, all because of unvaccinated COVID patients.

“We are headed to our darkest hours, darkest days,” said Dr. Shailesh Patel, chief medical officer at the hospital system’s Olive Branch facility. “We are afraid. We are scared of the fact that all the hospital systems are going to be completely inundated in our opinion.”

He says 96 percent of Methodist Le Bonheur patients who died from COVID-19 since June are unvaccinated, and there are only three ICU beds left in the entire hospital system.

“This surge is going to be much worse than what we were anticipating, unfortunately, than what it was several months ago,” Patel said. “So, if we don’t take action now, we’re going to be in a lot of trouble.”

As the delta variant causes new infections, hospitalizations, and deaths, Methodist Le Bonheur expects to surpass the previous hospitalization records set in late December 2020 and January.

“We’re not going to have the ability to care for people, which is something we never want to see in the health care profession,” Patel said.

There is also one common thing they hear from seriously ill unvaccinated COVID patients before they’re intubated.

“The single most frequent comment we’ve gotten from these patients is ‘I wish I had gotten the vaccine. I wish I had convinced my family members to get the vaccine,’” Patel said.

He says the summer surge could push non-COVID patient care to the limit.

“COVID is not the only thing we care for in the hospital,” Patel said. “We have our normal illnesses that patients need. So, we’ll be overwhelmed with that and then on top of that we’re still dealing with COVID.”

Patel says as the surge escalates administrators are asking the federal government for help to recruit medical staff, as their current doctors and nurses work in a system are headed to a breaking point.

“We’re all in this together. There have been days when we cried on each other’s shoulders. There are days when we lost patients where we have lifted each other up, and it’s frustrating when we see patients and general public not getting vaccines,” Patel said.

Patel also recommends you carefully evaluate whether you have a real medical emergency and perhaps seek help from clinics or primary health care providers.

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