Avera St. Luke’s readies for increase in COVID-19 patients

ABERDEEN, SD(Press Release) – Avera St. Luke’s Hospital is carefully watching COVID numbers and making adjustments to be able to care for a potentially greater surge in patients.

In the next couple of weeks, Avera is expecting a potential surge of over 300 COVID inpatients in its hospitals. To put that in perspective, we rose from around 120 COVID hospitalizations in the system several weeks ago to more than 190 on Wednesday. At 300 cases, it would exceed the total number of hospitalizations Avera experienced during the previous 2020 peak.

This week, Avera St. Luke’s has had between 6 and 12 COVID patients in the hospital on any given day. During the surge last fall, Avera St. Luke’s had 30 COVID inpatients at its peak.

While the hospital prepares for a possible influx of inpatients, its outpatient areas continue to be extremely busy, including its COVID19 testing site where the positivity rate continues to be high.

“Fortunately, we are not seeing the rate of COVID inpatient hospitalizations that we would’ve seen last fall with the current number of positive cases and without a vaccine,” said Kelli Fischer, Avera St. Luke’s Chief Nursing Officer. “But we continue to have increased capacity with routine care, heart attacks, strokes and emergencies. Our Avera@Home staff are very busy. Our outpatient areas like Urgent Care are seeing a ton of people every day.”

Overall, there has been a gradual incline in inpatients since the fall when the Delta variant hit. Many of these patients are staying in the hospital much longer than they did in 2020.

“To deal with the expected influx of cases, we have been updating our surge planning and we continue to rely heavily on our employees in all areas of our organization to work extra shifts in patient care areas,” said Avera St. Luke’s Hospital Regional President and CEO Todd Forkel. “Whether they have clinical experience or not, there are many support tasks they can help with to ease the burden when our frontline staff are busy.”

“We continue to pull our team together and get them ready, because across the Avera system we may be entering the most difficult stretch yet of the pandemic and know our community is going to need us. I am very proud of our employees for all they have done throughout the pandemic to ensure our patients and residents get the care they need.”

The public can help ease this situation. The first line of defense is vaccination. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people who are unvaccinated are:

  • 10 times more likely to die of COVID;
  • 10 times more likely to be hospitalized; and
  • 5 times more likely to get COVID.

“Due to variants, including Delta and Omicron, the waves of COVID keep coming. We’re still in the midst of this dangerous situation, so it’s important for all of us to stay vigilant and do what we can to protect ourselves and others,” said David Basel, MD, Vice President of Clinical Quality for Avera Medical Group.

Get vaccinated, and if the timing’s right, get your booster.

Don’t give up on all the other guardrails that can help:

  • Wash your hands;
  • Wear your mask when you’re in public areas with other people;
  • Stay home when you’re sick and get tested;
  • Stay at least 6 feet from others; and
  • Limit or refrain from indoor gatherings.

“And pray,” Fischer said.