PRINCETON — Princeton Community Hospital continues to struggle to provide enough beds and staff to handle COVID-19 patients, but the overall number of in-patients has dropped slightly.

Last week, the hospital had 50 COVID in-patients and a total of 125, but with only 117 beds available some patients with other medical issues were on beds in the emergency room. Rose Morgan, Vice President of Patient Care Services at PCH, said Monday the number of COVID patients had increased to 51 with 17 test results pending, with the total in-patient number dropping to 121.

“But the percentage of COVID patients is climbing right up there,” she said, and all ICU beds are now full.

Morgan said some patients can be sent to other facilities in the state, if space is available.

“We try to send patients out who need that level of care if we possibly can,” she said. “That availability fluctuates … and changes minute by minute sometimes. It’s a moving target.”

Some hospitals that can accept a patient are located in the northern part of the state, she said, but patients and their families often don’t want them to be sent that far away.

Morgan said even if some beds may be available at PCH, it’s often a staffing issue because personnel are not available to handle it.

“We might have an empty bed, but we may not have the nursing staff to take care of the patient,” she said, referring to the number of staff quarantined or who contract the virus. “We are still struggling with that.”

On Nov. 30, hospitals in the state started cutting back on elective surgeries to help preserve capacity and staff as COVID numbers were rising.

Morgan said PCH also stopped any elective surgery, even if it does not require an overnight stay, to help better utilize needed staff.

“We are still doing emergency surgeries that are urgent and cannot wait,” she said.

The hospital also continues to ask that anyone with a non-acute illness not requiring emergency treatment go to a clinic, their family physician or MedExpress, she said.

That is because the emergency rooms at both Princeton and Bluefield are struggling to keep up with treatment of patients.

However, acute emergencies should continue to use the emergency departments.

The hospital also has administered the COVID vaccine to those frontline workers who opted to take it, and some are now ready for the second shot.

“We used all of our weeks one, two and three vaccine,” she said of the staggered schedule of administering the doses to avoid any possible loss of work due to side effects, which can be similar to a flu shot.

This week, she said, those who received their shots in week one will get their second, and final, vaccination.

The first doses were from Pfizer, which requires a three-week waiting period between vaccines. The Moderna vaccine also includes two shots and requires a four-week wait between doses.

“We will get more (doses) to also continue some initial vaccinations,” she said, “and then open it up to all hospital staff.”

Morgan also expressed concern about a post- Christmas/New Year’s surge, which happened after the Thanksgiving holiday get-togethers.

— Contact Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com

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