Lehigh Valley hospitals at ‘crisis point’ as COVID-19 infections, deaths mount

Written by on January 19, 2022

Lehigh Valley hospitals at ‘crisis point’ as COVID-19 infections, deaths mount

By Tyler Pratt
January 20, 2022

Lehigh Valley doctors say hospitals are on the “verge of a crisis” as beds continue to fill with COVID-19 patients.

It’s leading to long wait times for people with other serious medical emergencies and illnesses. And it’s crushing health care professionals who say they’re reaching their breaking point. 

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The Lehigh Valley is a COVID-19 hotspot right now. In Lehigh County, hospitalizations are up 65 percent over the past seven days. They’ve been rising dramatically for weeks.

And as more patients pour in, more health care staff test positive and stay out, adding to the strain.

Lehigh Valley Health Network physicians like Dr. Kathleen Kane recently took to Facebook Live to say they “are just trying to keep their heads up above water.”

“The pace that emergency medicine staff are moving through  — nurses, techs, doctors — is just not sustainable. Our emergency rooms are being inundated with sick people who need care,” Kane said.

ExpressCARE centers are also overrun. LVHN reports recent days with 4,000 patients. A typical busy day might be closer to 1,000 patients, hospital officials say.

With the overwhelming number of people in area hospitals. LVHN doctors say to think twice before running to the ER. Make a virtual appointment first if you think it’s COVID, but symptoms are mild. That way, people having heart attacks, who can’t breathe, or who are experiencing critical injuries, can get the care they need.

Infectious disease specialist Dr. Timothy Friel also begged for the community’s help, to ease the strain on a hospital system that he says is at a “crisis point.” 

“We need folks to understand and if possible do their part to help protect us as we continue to protect and take care of those in our communities who really need our help and services,” Friel said.

Doctors said that means getting vaccinated, boosted and wearing an N-95 or surgical mask, not a cloth one, to help slow the spread of the omicron variant. 

LVHN reports the vast majority of their patients hospitalized and in the ICU are unvaccinated. And the health network says more than 100 people died from the virus in the first half of January. 

Last week, LVHN reported the highest number of COVID deaths in a single day since the pandemic began.

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