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Baptist Hospital Busy But Promises Care to All Patients

By Alyssa Schnugg

News editor


As Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi continues to battle against growing hospitalizations due to COVID-19’s delta variant, CEO and Administrator Bill Henning wants the Oxford community to know the hospital is prepared to take care of all patients.

“Anyone who is having an emergency should come to the hospital immediately,” Henning told Hotty Toddy News recently. “We always have, and we will continue to make a way to care for our community.”

As of Monday morning, there were 54 patients in the hospital with COVID-19, and 12 were in the ICU unit. The hospital has 181 staffed beds and 24 ICU beds.

Last week, Baptist issued an “Internal Disaster,” or “Code D,” which works similar to when a city or state declares a state of emergency.

“This status also allows the hospital to quickly make adjustments in areas such as nursing documentation requirements and converting beds and units to accommodate more patients,” Henning said. “With our contingency plan in place, we will be able to cross-use staff, space and resources to handle the surge of COVID-19 patients as we continue to care for our normal patient flow.”

Henning said about one-third of the patients in the hospital currently have COVID-19.

“These patients are often sicker and require longer hospital stays,” he said.

The hospital is operating at max capacity, but Henning said the staff is capable of adapting to meet the current needs of their patients.

“By adjusting resources and implementing contingency plans, we can better prepare for any additional patients,” he said. “What it is really important for the public and patients to know is we will take care of them in an emergency.”

Some of the adjustments being made include making changes within different areas of the hospital to accommodate the overflow of patients in the ICU.

“We’re also using resources available through our 22-hospital health care system and other agencies to provide the highest quality of care,” Henning said. “We have a surge plan, telemedicine resources and access to additional equipment.”

Converting other spaces, such as outpatient recovery rooms, can be done to help accommodate a surge of COVID-19 patients.

The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency will be sending nurses and other personnel to Baptist to help staff an additional 30 beds and provide some relief to the hospital’s staff who have been working at a high level for more than 18 months.

“We are extremely grateful for our loyal health care team and the additional personnel we are receiving,” Henning said.

Last week, Tannehill announced the city had requested a military mobile hospital to provide 50 additional beds. However, Henning said the hospital has decided to continue with its original plan of working within the hospital’s walls.

“If additional staff become available for the field hospital, it could be opened,” he said. “At this time, the hospital can, and is, converting other spaces. … While the mobile unit is still an option, as long as we can meet the community and patients’ needs within the walls of our hospital, we will continue to do so.”

The best way the Oxford-Lafayette-University community can help its hospital?

“Get vaccinated,” Henning said. “We are encouraging the community to get vaccinated to prevent any unnecessary deaths and to help us return to our normal lifestyles. We also encourage people to only use the hospital for situations they deem emergent or urgent.”

While Henning said the hospital has not seen a significant increase in COVID-19 cases over the last several days, numbers are still higher than they were about a week ago. However, students at the University of Mississippi arrived in town two weeks ago, and football games are around the corner. Those factors are keeping Baptist officials at the planning table.

“We are anticipating and preparing for an increase in positive COVID-19 cases and the impact it could have on both the emergency room and admissions to the hospital due to the increased population,” Henning said. “Planning and preparation are key during this time.”

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