Memphis area hospital beds are 92% full, but it’s not just due to COVID

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Trauma patients straining hospital system

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Hospital bed capacity is the Mid-South is in the red, meaning we are approaching capacity, according to the most recent data from the Shelby County Health Department. But the majority of those beds are not being used by COVID patients.

Doctors at Mid-South hospitals say the strain of COVID-19 combined with the recent gun violence is overwhelming. The most recent data from the Shelby County Health Department shows acute care hospital beds are at 92% capacity, while ICU beds are just under 90% full.

Doctors say most of those beds are actually being used for trauma patients, which includes not only gunshot victims but stabbings, car crashes, falls and other injuries.

“Any increase in the volume really stresses the system, and it really starts in the prehospital setting,” said Dr. Andy Kerwin, chief of trauma at Regional One Health.

It starts from the time you call 911.

“It impacts on the Memphis fire because they can’t offload patients quick enough because all the hospital run out of space,” Kerwin said. “It might take them 30 or 60 or 90 minutes to offload that patient, and that whole time that Memphis Fire Department ambulance is sitting in our ambulance bay and can’t go pick up you if you got hurt.”

In some cases, patients have to be taken to other hospitals for treatment. Le Bonheur typically only treats trauma patients 15 years old and younger, but lately, things have changed.

“The fact that they’re getting 16 and 17 and maybe even 18-year-olds I think speaks to the volume of trauma and the volume of the gun violence,” Kerwin said.

It’s taking a mental, physical and emotional toll on healthcare workers who are still dealing with the pandemic.

“It’s a definite threat that we could lose any members of the healthcare team in an already stressed environment,” Kerwin said.

Memphis Police report 93 murders compared to 79 this same time last year. Le Bonheur also reports an increase in children being shot during the same time period.

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