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AU Health feels huge strain as patients flood its COVID-19 units



AUGUSTA, Ga. – As COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations remain incredibly high, it’s obviously putting a huge strain on our hospitals.

“Think of this like a fire. A fire just doesn’t go out on its own until it’s really consumed all of the fuel,” AU Health’s Dr. Phillip Coule said.

There’s more fuel every day, as cases climb in numbers and hospitalizations following suit. Coule says their ICU capacity is outmatched.

“We are now at the point of converting spaces not normally used for ICU care to ICUs,” he said.

So, their normal space for endoscopies is being converted to a new ICU. There are now more than four COVID-19 units across the hospital.

“What we continue to see is large numbers of COVID-19 patients presenting to the emergency department and requiring admission to the hospital,” Coule said.

Gold Cross EMS says there have been times over the past few weeks when they try to drop off a patient that our hospitals are full.

“Now, we are treating pretty much every single call as a potential COVID-19 patient,” said Steven Vincent, vice president of the ambulance service.

He also says some of their paramedics are stationed in hospitals.

“They’ll watch the patients on a stretcher just while we are waiting on a bed to open,” Vincent said.

And as cases continue to surge, they’re trying new ways to take care of patients and keep them out of our hospitals.

When you call 911, we are able to do a telemedicine visit with a physician on scene. Or we can also take you to an urgent care facility,” Vincent said.

AU is also using their monoclonal antibody therapy center to keep patients out of the hospital. They’re treating their max of nine patients a day and plan to double that capacity with a new location soon.

Still, hospitals continue to see large gatherings and hardly any caution.

“If activities like that continue without mitigation strategies in place, we will most certainly see these cases continue to climb,” Coule said.