Healthbeat: Spike in COVID overwhelms Geisinger hospitals


PLAINS TOWNSHIP, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — The COVID crisis is once again overwhelming many hospitals across the country and it seems Northeastern and Central Pennsylvania are not immune to the problem.

Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center, where inpatient occupancy is reported to be at 120 percent, is just one of the Geisinger facilities experiencing the pain.

Geisinger’s President and C.E.O, Dr. Jaewon Ryu, held a virtual media briefing Wednesday to discuss the dire situation.

“I think the takeaway message here is it’s really strapping and putting strain on the overall healthcare system,” said Dr. Ryu.

Dr. Ryu cites a substantial uptick in severe COVID cases as having a staggering impact on hospitals everywhere including Geisinger facilities.

“In early-mid-November, we were looking at about half the levels of what we’re seeing today and so it’s really picked up and climbed quite a bit just in a one-month period,” Dr. Ryu said.

A rate of infection he says that’s the worst of the pandemic to date, which he blames on more social activities and fewer restrictions even as COVID rages on.

As a system, Geisinger is at 110 percent capacity.

All but one Geisinger hospital exceeds full occupancy with some worse than others.

“Our Jersey Shore campus, 130 percent of capacity and 61 percent is COVID and believe it or not just in the last week there was a day up at our Jersey Shore campus where every single patient admitted to that hospital other than one was admitted there for COVID,” explained Dr. Ryu.

On Sunday, more than 300 patients were admitted with COVID-19 at all Geisinger hospitals combined. 90 percent of them were unvaccinated against the virus.

Dr. Ryu urges anyone not vaccinated to get their first shot as soon as possible and for everyone else to complete the cycle including booster shots.

“It’s effective against COVID. We know that. We’ve been conveying that as far as the science and the evidence every chance we get but it also indirectly helps with those non-COVID issues because it creates extra capacity inside the healthcare system,” Dr. Ryu stated.

Dr. Ryu says Geisinger Emergency Departments are also experiencing the pinch with wait times often between 10 and 20 hours.

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