Beebe Healthcare President and CEO Dr. David Tam says the number of patients hospitalized in the Lewes facility is nearing the spring peak.
Although he did not provide specific numbers during a Jan. 5 meeting of the Lewes Board of Health, he said he is not concerned about staff’s ability to handle the load. Unlike hospitalization numbers, Tam said, the number of critically ill patients and those who require ventilators is not nearly as high as during the spring peak.
“Patients are slightly younger,” Tam said. “The older population has certainly gotten the message. Stay home, wash your hands and stay physically distant.”
Another factor in keeping the critically ill patient census down is the healthcare industry’s experience over the last 10 months in learning how to treat COVID-positive patients.
“In the spring, almost everyone in the hospital was on a ventilator,” he said. “Now we do a lot more work to treat patients.”
Dr. Paul Cowan, Beebe’s emergency medicine specialist and chair of the Lewes Board of Health, said he’s concerned about cases spiking following the holidays. He said there’s typically a 14-day lag period from when people are exposed and then get sick enough to require hospitalization.
“It’s going to be a challenge for the next few weeks or month,” he said.
Beebe staff vaccine update
About two-thirds of Beebe’s frontline workers, physicians and medical staff have received the Pfizer vaccine, with the rest expected to get the first dose within a week. They’re expecting to start the administering the second doses by the end of the week, Tam said.
“We’ve invited everyone to get it, but it’s not mandatory,” Tam said. “We’re encouraging everyone to get it.”
Cowan said staff who chose not to get the vaccine must take extra precautions.
“We can give people all of the information and they certainly can make their own decision,” he said. “When we have had people in the past that haven’t taken the flu vaccine, they have to take extra precautions, like wearing a mask.”
For those who are wary about getting the vaccine, Cowan said, there are now a few million people in the U.S. who’ve gotten it with very few negative responses. He said he’d make himself available to any groups in the community who want to learn more about the vaccines.
Community vaccination plan
With Beebe finishing up vaccinations of its team members, the focus is starting to shift to providing vaccines for other members of Phase 1A, such as dentists and funeral home workers, among others.
Beyond that, Tam said Beebe is beginning to develop a plan for Phase 1B.
Among those who’ve already received vaccinations are many of the state’s emergency responders. Last week, the state offered two vaccination events for first responders in Kent County. Similar events continued on three separate nights this week in Sussex County.
For those who have questions about COVID-19 or the vaccines, Beebe Healthcare will hold a virtual town hall on Facebook from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m., Friday, Jan. 8.