JOHNSON CITY — Twenty clinical and non-clinical U.S. Army and Air Force National Guard personnel have been deployed to Ballad Health hospitals in Northeast Tennessee to assist with the current surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations.
“We’ve hit a milestone that we didn’t want to reach,” a Facebook post from the hospital system said.
As of Sunday, 237 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 in Ballad facilities — six of whom were children, the highest number of children hospitalized with COVID-19 the hospital system has seen. Four of those children are in the pediatric intensive care unit at Niswonger Children’s Hospital, ordinarily a 10-bed unit.
Tuesday night, officials said, the system had just two PICU beds still available, with overall ICU capacity at 95%.
The overall number of hospitalizations is up 8% from Friday’s 219 inpatients and has put the hospital system slightly above its best-case scenario model, which projected 228 inpatients by Tuesday. It is still significantly below its worst-case modeling of 417 inpatients, however, and is tracking below the moderate scenario of 306 inpatients by Tuesday.
“To anyone reading this post, we beg of you to please, please get vaccinated for COVID-19,” Ballad’s Facebook post read. “That is the single most important thing you could do to help support health care workers right now. To those of you who have already received their vaccine — thank you. We appreciate your help in protecting your loved ones and our community at-large.”
During a press conference on Wednesday, Ballad officials said they were in the process of applying for National Guard help as part of a statewide program announced last week to send medically trained personnel into hospitals to help assist frontline health care workers.
Ballad previously received personnel through this program during the winter surge, with 33 National Guard members spending six weeks working in the system’s tertiary hospitals in Bristol, Kingsport and Johnson City from December to January.
“We are continuing to see the number of new COVID cases in our region grow at an alarming rate, which is leading to more and more hospitalizations,” said Ballad Chief Physician Executive Dr. Clay Runnels.
“This drastic increase in the number of inpatients is putting a significant strain on the capacity of the health system,” Runnels said.
National Guard personnel have also been sent to several parts of the state dealing with a surge in coronavirus hospitalizations, including Memphis and Nashville, among others.