CRMC nearing capacity, ICU full

By Michelle Price
UCBJ Managing Editor

COOKEVILLE – Cookeville Regional Medical Center (CRMC) patient numbers this week that rivaled the peak of the COVID surge last winter. At one point, 72 COVID patients were admitted for treatment, causing the hospital to bump up against its licensure for total volume.

“One morning this week, the hospital was at license capacity with patients waiting in the emergency room (for available beds),” said Nursing Director Scott Lethi. 

“We are still doing our very, very best to maintain full services for our local community,” Lethi said. 

For a time, the hospital was even out of ICU beds.  

“From a census standpoint, we are bumping up against licensure for total volume,” explained Lethi. “We needed to open up some other adjunct areas to take care of some higher acuity patients, so we’ve created some space to take care of additional ICU patients in the last 24 hours.”

It’s not just beds that were in short supply. Each extra bed creates a need for additional staff that is already in short supply.

“For overflow, we are having to get creative, and we are having to get staff to come in and work extra to take care of the higher volumes,” Lethi said. “Our census is higher than it was a year ago. The patients we are seeing come in are sicker, and with the delay of care we are seeing from COVID, even the non-COVID patients we are seeing are having a higher acuity. So, they are coming in more ill which requires more services.” 

With sicker patients comes an increase in the number of patients needing ventilation. Thursday, the number ventilated climbed to 15 stressing the number of machines available and requiring creative measures.

“We do have a shortage of ventilators, but we have additional ventilators coming in that we are going to rent while we are going through this crisis,” said Paul Korth, CRMC CEO.

Although there may be a slight wait for newly admitted patients to get a bed, the staff at CRMC is striving to make sure each patient is comfortable while at the medical center for treatment. 

“We are still doing our very, very best to maintain full services for our local community,” Lethi said. 

The COVID vaccination is highly recommended by the CRMC staff.

See related story: Local expert stresses necessity of COVID vaccination

“We are admitting very, very few patients that have been vaccinated,” said Korth. “The majority of the patients we are admitting with COVID symptoms are unvaccinated. I will let that speak to itself. I think the facts are there that vaccinations work. Yes, you can still get COVID. And yes, you can still spread COVID with the vaccination, but it seems to be much milder.”

Korth ended his plea saying, “Please get vaccinated. It does work.”

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