ICUs and ERs in crisis: Doctor warns that Georgia health care system is maxed out

AUGUSTA, Ga. — A doctor who helps run a major east Georgia hospital system said his ICUs and emergency rooms are in crisis.

Channel 2′s Mark Winne talked to Dr. Phillip L. Coule, VIP and chief medical officer for the Augusta University Health System. He said the onslaught of COVID-19 patients is putting people’s lives in jeopardy.

[RELATED: Georgia hospitals nearing capacity as COVID-19 cases rise. Here’s how to check yours]

“Unfortunately, I think that we are going to see a significant number of deaths from this disease, and the secondary effects of the healthcare system being overloaded,” Coule said.

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Across Georgia, many intensive care units and emergency departments are overwhelmed by the COVID-19 surge driven by the delta variant. Many ICUs are out of room for more patients, which is creating backups in emergency rooms.

“The healthcare system is essentially maxed out right now at least for our area, and from a review of the state data, we’re seeing this in other facilities as well,” Coule said.

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Coule said data from the Georgia Coordinating Center shows severe emergency department overcrowding that is widespread with a number of hospitals having to divert patients.

“It’s incredibly important for people to understand, if you’re not vaccinated, get vaccinated,” Coule said. “You do not want to end up with COVID with the ICUs already overloaded.”

Coule said the capacity crisis affects other critically ill patients besides those with COVID.

“If the emergency department is overcrowded, it is difficult for that emergency department to deliver that same high-quality care for a heart attack victim or a trauma victim,” Coule said.

Coule said his team is working incredibly hard to save lives, but Georgians can help by staying home, wearing a mask in large crowds and paying attention to points of contact.

Coule said getting vaccinated may save not only the life of the person getting vaccinated, but also other people’s lives.

If you are diagnosed with COVID-19, Coule recommends finding a hospital that offers monoclonal antibody infusions, which can greatly improve outcomes for those who become infected.