Lake Charles hospitals reach ICU bed limit as COVID-19 cases surge in SWLA

Updated: Jul. 9, 2020 at 11:51 PM EDT
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LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - Representatives from Lake Charles Memorial and CHRISTUS Ochsner St. Patrick Hospital warned the public on Thursday of the grim consequences of not taking COVID-19 seriously as the number of cases and hospitalization rates in Southwest Louisiana increase.

Pulmonary critical care doctor Clifford Courville gave insight on what things look like at Lake Charles Memorial, specifically in the intensive care unit.

Courville said Thursday the hospital has 19 Covid patients in ICU, 10 of them on ventilators. The Covid ICU has only 16 beds, which means patients are having to share rooms already.

Courville compared Thursday’s statistics to July 1, when there were 9 patients in ICU.

“In just 9 days, that number has more than doubled,” Courville said. “So you can anticipate what things may look like in 9 more days, when we don’t have any patients that we can fit in our Covid ICU.”

Courville forecasted a major limitation in available resources if hospitalization rates continue to climb.

“We will have to then consider closing down another ICU to fit more Covid patients, which will then involve perhaps eliminating any other elective or emergency surgeries that are being done.”

Courville and his staff have kept track of their inventory – Lake Charles Memorial has 30 ventilators available but only 31 monitors to watch those patients.

Courville said they ordered 6 more monitors, but his concern is that they won’t be able to keep up if the number of ICU patients double every nine days.

“I want you to keep in mind what it looks like to walk into a room and you see two people sharing a room,” Courville said. “One person on a ventilator, the other person may not be. That person who is not on a ventilator is watching what is happening next to them, anticipating that that is going to be them.”

Kevin Holland, CEO of CHRISTUS Ochsner St. Patrick, echoed Courville’s account.

Holland said St. Patrick has had record levels of COVID-19 patients in the past 2-3 weeks. Holland reported 8 positive cases in ICU, 13 on their floor and 5 PUI, which stands for “person under investigation.”

Holland said the PUIs are likely to test positive.

Courville said hospital systems have gotten better at being able to support COVID-19 patients and improve life expectancy compared to March, when officials were learning about the virus.

Many of the current patients are younger, which Courville mentioned one of them in ICU is an 18-year-old. Patients in their 40s-70s were all working and had maybe one or two medical problems, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, Courville said.

“Otherwise functional members of society who are now critically ill, and may not survive the next two weeks.”

Courville and Holland stressed the virus is not going away and urged the public to follow the mitigation measures in place to not only reduce the spread of COVID-19, but to prevent hospital systems from getting overwhelmed with resources tapped out.

Lake Charles Memorial Hospital chief medical officer Dr. Manley Jordan said hospitalization rates have escalated dramatically, to the point hospital systems are getting very close to meeting the threshold where it’s challenging to maintain a standard of care they’re dedicated to.

The positivity rate in the community has jumped from 2.5% on Memorial Day to almost 24-25%, which means almost 1 in 4 people have tested positive.

Lake Charles Memorial had 20 patients and 3 on ventilators a week ago. On Thursday, Jordan said they have 41 patients in their system, not just in ICU.

“Yesterday, we’ve had 10 Covid admissions to Memorial and we had 3 deaths, regrettably,” Jordan said. “Please keep in mind we’re still taking care of patients in our community with heart attacks, strokes, people needing surgeries and people having car accidents. We’re still having to do that, we want to do that.”

ICU Bed Availability data by LDH on July 9, 2020.
ICU Bed Availability data by LDH on July 9, 2020.(Louisiana Department of Health)

The Louisiana Department of Health provides information on available ICU beds by Region. ICU Bed Availability is a tab below the map.

Region 5 includes the five-parish area of Calcasieu, Allen, Beauregard, Cameron, and Jeff Davis.

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