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ICU beds full at both Southeast Georgia Health System's Brunswick, Camden hospitals as COVID-19 cases soar

"They’re pretty much at their wits' end.” Nurses plead with people to get their COVID-19 vaccine after infected patients increased 50% from last week.

BRUNSWICK, Ga. — Healthcare workers at a southeast Georgia hospital are begging people to get the COVID-19 vaccine as exhausted employees try to keep up with the surge of infected patients coming through the doors.

Only 40% of people in Glynn County and 28% of people in Camden County are fully vaccinated, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health

The hospital is at capacity, and tired nurses are retiring early. The dreary weather outside Thursday matched how the staff feels inside the Southeast Georgia Health System. 

“Everybody in the healthcare system has not recuperated from the last surge," Jan Jones said. "They’re tired. They’re pretty much at their wits' end.”

Jan Jones is a registered nurse and director of patient care services.

“I have more people in the ICU right now than I did at the peak time of the last surge," Jones said. 

“It’s very frustrating. We’re seeing max capacity. All of the beds are full to the point where patients are waiting for beds in the emergency room," Dr. Alan Brown said. 

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Alan Brown says all ICU beds are full at both of the Brunswick and Camden hospitals. 

“In a month, we have two entire floors devoted to COVID patients," Brown said. "We’ve had to cancel elective surgeries because we don’t have beds to put the patients in.”

Less than 10% of COVID-19 patients at the hospital are fully vaccinated, and caring for them is leaving nurses drained physically and emotionally.

“Nurses don’t get lunch. They don’t get bathroom breaks. They’re working long hours, sometimes 12, 14, 15 hours a day," Jones said. "They’re working extra shifts to try and cover ratios with the volume that’s coming in.”

Brown fears the healthcare system will have to take severe measures if the surge in COVID-19 patients continues. 

“It’s scary because the next steps become field hospitals," Brown said.

“As soon as a patient is discharged from our critical care unit, or worse, is deceased, there’s another patient to put in that bed. It’s like a revolving door that we can’t stop," Jones said.

Health System leadership attributes the increase to the more contagious delta variant, low vaccination rates, and decreased safety protocols.