MEMPHIS, Tenn. — FOX13 toured Methodist University Hospital’s COVID-19 wing as the staff was under the gun dealing with the second surge in Shelby County.
For our crew’s safety, they wore personal protective equipment from head to toe, two medical-grade masks, and the tour was limited to 30 minutes.
The COVID-19 wing is behind two sets of sealed double doors inside Methodist University Hospital.
Our crew visited in late December where they saw several patients on ventilators and if patients didn’t need help breathing, they were still very weak and you could see the exhaustion on their faces.
“The number keeps growing daily. The number leaving and the number coming in are off now so there are more coming in than going out,” said Matthew Robinson who is the COVID-19 patient care coordinator.
Robinson volunteered for this role when the pandemic started last March and now he knows just about everything about each patient on this floor.
Many of these patients on this wing need ICU service and Robinson said all 48 rooms have equipment for those services too.
Having the capability for every room in this unit to be ICU gives doctors and nurses the flexibility to provide proper care regardless of the room.
Robinson said they anticipated the Thanksgiving surge, and prepared for it.
“What happens when we run out of space in this area? Our plan is to go upstairs. What happens if there are more patients than nurses? So we started to plan our surge plans so we prepared very heavily and now we’re starting to see that number,” he said.
But now Robinson said space is getting harder to find.
“This is our only open room on this unit, we always leave one open for emergencies and you’re standing in the last bed on the unit that does not have a patient,” said Robinson showing our crew an open room on the floor.
There are five adult hospitals within the Methodist healthcare system.
Methodist University Hospital President Roland Cruickshank said they’re constantly updating surge plans, tracking hospital volume every hour along with seasonal patterns.
“We can look at bed capacity as a health care system. We can look at our entire portfolio of beds and make decisions in terms of who has the most beds, where are staffing so we can always focus on getting the patient to a bed in the system,” said Cruickshank.
As you can imagine, the COVID-19 wing is very isolated.
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Nurses and doctors try to set up routines like daily zoom calls for loved ones.
But nurse Nathan Miller said unfortunately some loved ones are together as patients fighting this relentless virus.
“Whichever one is on less oxygen you try to take them to that other loved one’s room to visit but sometimes it’s kind of sad if one family member gets to leave and the other one just can’t,” said Miller. “It’s tough, you can kind of you picture it being your family, it would be really hard for me.”
It’s a heartache that is felt on this floor way too often.
With hundreds of patients who have come into this unit, Robinson said it’s difficult to put a number on the ones who haven’t made it out.
“You do get emotionally attached and it’s very difficult when you do get to know them and they progress and digress to the point where they end up passing on, it hurts,” said Robinson. “You feel the loss the same way that if it was somebody you knew really well even though we only knew them for a short period of time.”
But not every day is a bad one. Patients recover and go home.
Leading to celebrations that are often as isolated as this unit, but exactly what these healthcare workers need to keep pushing forward.
“It’s very lucky to get out of here. To leave this unit whether you had mild, moderate, severe illness, anybody who is allowed to leave here on their own being is very lucky and it is a time to celebrate,” said Robinson.
Most days that unit is hitting capacity, but hospital staff says they have the capacity to add 30 more COVID beds on a separate floor from the current wing.
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