Public Official 8/12/21
Friends – (hint: this is one of the long ones) – I want you to know what our team is doing on behalf of our fellow Mississippians.
#1 – we are not panicking. As we do with every emergency (tornado, hurricane, flooding, ice storm, and this pandemic), we are calmly making decisions based on the best available data to manage the situation and mitigate its impact on our people.
My number one goal from day one of this pandemic has always been to protect the integrity of our health care system. The current phase of the pandemic seems more and more like a “pandemic of the unvaccinated” – as the Delta variant has had very few breakthrough cases amongst those who have “gotten the shot” – but the goal remains the same: ensure everyone that can get better with quality care receives that quality care!
Total hospitalizations remain below where they were at our peak from August of 2020. Total number of patients in ICU beds remains at or near our peak levels from August of 2020.
Honestly, the real challenge is NOT the physical beds – hospital beds or ICU beds. The challenge is our hospitals may not have an adequate number of health care professionals (docs, nurses, respiratory therapists, etc.) to staff those beds. Unfortunately, I’ve been advised hospitals throughout Mississippi have lost nearly 2,000 nurses over the last year. There is a labor shortage in most industries throughout America today and health care is no different. Some hospitals lost staff because they laid off employees that never came back. Some staff left due to administrative decisions (such as mandating vaccines). But the reason for the shortage can be debated in the future…..the task at hand is to help backfill these vacancies to protect the integrity of our healthcare system.
To that end, here is what we are doing and what we are focused on in the near term:
1. MSDH delayed through regulation any elective surgeries from August 1-August 15.
2. MSDH implemented the System of Care plan the team developed to transport patients to ensure all beds in the state were in use handling the patients they could handle.
3. Yesterday, we added ICU capacity and beds in our System of Care at both the VA facility in Jackson and the VA facility on the Coast.
4. We are re-opening the 50-bed MED-1 facility in the parking garage at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. This facility should be operational and functional no later than Friday of this week.
5. It has been determined by the MSDH that 920 additional health care professionals are needed in the intermediate term in Mississippi.
6. MEMA has made an EMAC request to other states – as is required by FEMA – for the additional personnel. If this request cannot be filled by other states, the request will be forwarded to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for federal assistance.
7. MEMA has also begun the process of contracting with private entities for additional personnel to be added to existing personnel at hospitals throughout Mississippi as well as at any new facilities that we may have to open.
8. MSDH and MEMA have requested an additional 10 teams to open new sites – in addition to the 41 sites that we already have in the state – to administer monoclonal anti-bodies treatment – a treatment that has proven to significantly reduce hospitalizations for patients with COVID.
9. Over 60,000 vaccinations were administered last week alone, and access to the vaccine remains available to every eligible person in the state.
10. The team is considering opening an additional 50 bed facility – possibly Med-2 and possibly a private entity – in the Jackson market. In addition, we are also in contract discussions with a potential 50 bed facility in the Hattiesburg market.
11. We are discussing our options on the State of Emergency and will make a final decision within the next 48 hours on whether or not it needs to be extended.
As you can see, in spite of the angry rhetoric coming from so many, our emergency management team is doing what it does – we are calmly dealing with an ever-changing environment to meet the needs of Mississippi. I remain incredibly proud of all the work being done by the Mississippi National Guard, the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, the Mississippi Dept. of Health, and our many partners.
Please….Pray for your fellow Mississippians.
Be smart. Remain calm. Ignore all the irrational folks.
Do what’s best for you and your family.