CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – Clinical leaders from community hospitals throughout West Virginia are issuing a statement through the West Virginia Hospital Association due to the current rise in COVID-19 cases.

The healthcare leaders say their statement is in response to West Virginia Governor Jim Justice’s call to limit social gatherings.

This morning, the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources

Health leaders say projections show that West Virginia could hit the highest number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state during the 2021 holiday season. According to health officials, the vast majority of COVID-19 patients currently in the ICU and on ventilators are unvaccinated. They also say the national shortage of monoclonal antibodies has restricted access to an effective treatment option.

Along with the increase in COVID-19 patients, health leaders say hospitals are also seeing a high number of other medical conditions such as the flu, heart diseases, cancer and trauma that require patients to be hospitalized.

“This combination has strained the health care system and now after nearly two years, the system is nearing a breaking point as health care workers are mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted,” the health leaders’ statement says. “As a state and a nation, we are in this crisis together, and although there have been multiple calls for action in the past, we need your help now more than ever to ensure health care services are available for everyone who needs them.”

The clinical leadership says hospitals operating at contingency and crisis levels of care means longer wait times and staffing shortage are “now the norm,” and it’s having an impact on the availability of timely care. They say the situation is also stressing and overworking EMS workers as well as hospital staff. They also stressed in their statement that the increased pressure creates a risk of creating and increasing the delays and challenges in accessing care for everyone in need of emergency services or inpatient hospital care.

“Across the state, resilient and dedicated health care workers stand ready to care for our communities, but the reality is most hospitals throughout the state have more patients in their emergency departments than they do staff to care for them,” health officials stated. “This results in longer wait times, patients being treated in hallways and waiting rooms, and diversions to other medical providers where staff has capacity to provide acute care services.”

The health leaders are asking West Virginians to take the following steps to decrease pressure on the healthcare systems.

  • Get fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Health officials say evidence has shown the vaccines are effective at keeping people out of the hospital and off ventilators. To find a vaccination site near you, visit vaccine.gov.
  • For those 16 and older who are vaccinated, health officials highly encourage you to get a booster dose.
  • Reach out to your medical provider if you have questions about the vaccines.
  • Consider what would be the best route to seek health care, such as a primary care office, virtual health care visit or urgent care. However, if you have emergency conditions such as stroke symptoms, chest pain, difficulty breathing or a significant injury, continue to seek emergency care.
  • Don’t delay routine medical care, physicals or screenings. Health officials say it is still important to address small problems before they become serious health problems.
  • Donate blood. Health officials say the Red Cross is experiencing its worst blood shortage in over a decade and that the low supply has forced some hospitals to defer patient care. To donate blood visit the Red Cross website.
  • Practice physical distancing at indoor gatherings and events, including wearing a face mask.
  • Get tested for COVID-19 if you have potentially been exposed to the virus and limit your interactions with other people until you have a negative test and/or have completed the recommended quarantine period.
  • If you or a family member needs medical care, be patient and thoughtful to the staff who are working under extreme pressure while short handed.