As pandemic wears on, local nurses plead with community to get vaccinated


BRUNSWICK, Ga. (WSAV) – As the number of positive COVID-19 patients increases every day, physicians and nurses at Southeast Georgia Health System have a message for the community: please get vaccinated.

“The nurses are tired, everybody is tired,” says Jan Jones, who has been a critical care nurse at the Brunswick campus of the Southeast Georgia Health System for 35 years.

Jones, the director of Patient Care Services, told WSAV, “We see people just keep coming in and so many of them, unfortunately, have not been vaccinated, including most now in the ICU.”

“It’s very disheartening that our community, and our nation, has not taken this seriously and gotten vaccinated,” she added.

Southeast Georgia Health System has two hospitals, one in Brunswick and another in Camden County. Like other facilities statewide, it is reporting a sharp rise in COVID-19 hospitalized patients. That’s attributed to the delta variant, low vaccination rates and an easing of restrictions in the community.

“On July 12, we had 10 patients within the health care system. So over a course of 23 days, it’s gone from 10 to 95 COVID patients,” said Dr. Alan Brown, who is the chief medical officer.

“Our hospital is packed full. We have no beds, we have 95 COVID patients and the number’s rising daily in our health care system,” said Brown. “It seems that it will be a trend for a while, so we’re trying to do what we can to prepare for that with staffing and nurses and beds and finding space for folks that are sick. A lot of them are parked in the emergency room for a period of time.”

Brown says they can serve people but patients are waiting in the ER, sometimes for days, for a bed in a room.

He says all he can do is encourage people to try and get vaccinated if they can.

There’s concern about staffing levels, and all medical personnel are feeling the pressure, Brown adds.

“When you wake up in the morning and you know you’re going to run into a burning house for 14, 15 hours and you’re going to do it for 12 to 14 days in a row, it can wear on you,” said Brown. “That’s because when you look at the fact that 95 percent of the people being hospitalized are unvaccinated, you feel, to a degree, that a lot of this could have been avoided.”

Due to increased volumes and growing positivity rates in the community, the Southeast Georgia Health System has reinstated visitor restrictions, limiting patients to one visitor per day. There are also postponements of some elective surgeries, especially those that require an overnight stay.

“We’re being overwhelmed with sick patients from the virus,” said Brown. “We can do it, but it’s been a long run.”

Jones says she remains concerned about the sacrifices being made by the nursing staff.

“It’s very sad to see them and what they have to go through because families can’t always be with the patient,” she said.

Jones says it’s not just medical support. Nurses have been asked to provide love and emotional support missing due to the absence of family.

She urges people to get the COVID vaccine, which health officials continue to point out is free and available at hospitals, doctor’s offices and county health departments, along with various health clinics and pharmacies.

“If people don’t want to get the vaccination for themselves, at least get it for the people they love and the ones that love them,” says Jones.

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