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'Numbers have spiked so quickly': Baptist nurses dealing with latest COVID surge, challenge for those on medical frontlines

Baptist Memphis COVID patients surged more than five times in past week or so, positivity rate of those tested in system also spiked significantly.

MEMPHIS, Tennessee — With new COVID cases suring to historic highs in the past week locally those on the frontlines at Memphis area hospitals are again bracing for another wave of hosptializations.

That's the case at Baptist Memorial Hospital system, where of nearly 1200 tests administered at its Memphis area hospitals, nearly half - or 47% - came back positive.

At Baptist Memphis, COVID patients spiked more than five fold - from 11 to 59 - in the past week or so, including a handful who were fully vaccinated, and there's concern it could reach previous highs set in previous surges this pandemic.

For nurses, the work continues and the dedication continues, even as ER wait times and positivity rates rise yet again.

"The numbers have spiked so quickly," Baptist Memphis Nurse Anne Darst said.

For Darst, the Omicron led surge in recent days is yet the latest test for her and other staff on the local medical frontlines.

"Healthcare workers have a lot of resilience and perserverance, this is what we are educated for, this is what we are trained for," Darst added.

Darst said at the ER she works in, wait times doubled or tripled in the last week and that's again putting a strain on overall care

"It's a domino effect, when you have so many patients coming in with COVID, the other patients are going to have less time with their nurse and less time with their doctor, the whole system feels the stress," Darst said.

While Darst said she and her coworkers are up to the challenge in what appears to be the pandemic's fifth surge, they're also doing more with less.

"Our staff is getting exhausted, with the labor shortages in 2021, not just in health care, but resaturant industry, airlines," Darst said.

"I can assure you it's tiring for those working in the ICU, particularly the nurses, to deal with this kind of problem again," Baptist Memphis Dr. Stephen Threlkeld said.

While Dr. Threlkeld Wednesday applauded medical workers again answering the call, he's also concerned of what could be on the COVID hospitalization horizon.

"The distressing part of this is that we are probably quite a bit ahead of what would be the expected peak of illness, ICU stays and deaths because they are going to lag as we all know a couple of weeks behind the case loads and those case loads are shooting up at extraordinary speeds," Dr. Threlkeld said.

Of the 59 COVID hospitalizations at Baptist Memphis Wednesday, 13 of those patients were admitted in the past 24 hours.

Nurses reminded anyone who needs to go to the ER to be patent, bring a phone charger and snacks during wait times.

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