St. Joseph’s/Candler CEO provides COVID-19 update, current wait time for a hospital bed 8-9 hours

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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Following the large crowds experienced across the coastal empire this holiday weekend, President & CEO of St. Joseph’s/Candler Hospital Paul Hinchey says the potential for a spike in cases is concerning.

“We have done a great job of discharging patients and turning the beds over so to speak, and getting them on oxygen and getting them on home-health and really have re-engineered everything, but as fast as we turn those beds over, the ER fills them back up again,” said Hinchey.

The current wait time for a bed in the Emergency Room is between eight to nine hours.

Today, St. Joseph’s/Candler reported 159 positive inpatients between both hospitals. Hinchey has stated that the 160 mark is the breaking point of sorts, where elective surgeries and other measures will start to be dialed back. 

That mark was reached last Thursday and Friday, but has now returned to below the 160 threshold. He says, they have a plan if cases spike but are currently holding tight.

“Here, this hospital has an obligation for two things. One is to provide you a bed, god forbid if you get COVID, the second thing is to provide you a med surge bed if you have a heart attack, if you have a stroke,” Hinchey explained. “On the beds now, it’s a couple of factors…the number (of total cases) first, flip the page, how many vents, flip the page, how many ICU beds, because we’ve gotta keep those available for the open heart surgeries and everything else.”

With the peak of Savannah’s hurricane season now underway, Hinchey says SJC does have a disaster plan in case of emergency. That plan is contingent on making sure their medical staff can stay in the area, even if evacuations are mandatory. 

“There are some issues with that if there’s mandatory evacuations, so we’re going to have to get with FEMA and say look, we need every nurse here. We can’t evacuate because the census is too high, but we’re prepared as we possibly can be,” he said.

Currently, 86% of COVID-positive patients at St. Joseph’s/Candler are unvaccinated. He says, getting more shots in arms is the only option to help curb the surge.

“It’s the only option, we will be living this for a period of time that is gonna have collateral damage on all of us. Mental health damage, the economy, our fatigue factor, let’s just get rid of it,” said Hinchey.

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