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CEO: Williamson Medical ventilating patients at higher rate than past COVID surges

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Williamson Medical Center - file

Williamson Medical Center

Williamson Medical Center has experienced a “high mark” in the recent COVID-19 surge over the past week, with an increased rate of ventilation compared to previous COVID-19 surges and a lower average age of COVID patients, according to hospital CEO Phil Mazzuca.

The executive is calling on the community to support health care workers.

“Our team of skilled professionals and essential health care workers continue their heroic efforts on behalf of the residents of Williamson County and surrounding areas regardless of any rhetoric that may detract from the real-life efforts of this dedicated and resilient team,” Mazzuca said. “Please continue to recognize the efforts of these individuals on the front lines as well as your first responders and all others working hard to support our community through the pandemic.”

As of 3 p.m. on Monday, Williamson Medical had 45 COVID-19 patients, including 10 in the intensive care unit and eight on ventilators. Williamson County as a whole, according to the Tennessee Department of Health, had 2,157 confirmed active COVID-19 cases as of Sunday.

Over the past 18 months, the hospital had almost 3,900 COVID-positive patients, 2,500 of whom came through an emergency department. Recently, Mazzuca said the hospital consistently has around 50 COVID patients, and the hospital is using ventilators at a higher rate than during the major surge last winter.

“If you really look at what took place from October [to] January, there was probably a four- or five-month period for us to get to the peak,” he said. “In this [surge], we really started to notice the upswing the last week of July, and within six weeks, we were at our peak. This thing was really rapid and it really put significant pressure on our hospital.”

Mazzuca said the average age of COVID patients at the hospital dropped from 68 in the last surge to 61 now.

“We’re seeing a greater number of younger patients with serious disease,” he said. “We recently had patients on ventilators in their 30s and 40s.”

He shared that the majority of critical patients have been unvaccinated, but some vaccinated immunocompromised patients with breakthrough cases have required intensive care. Currently, according to the state health department, almost 55% of county residents are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

“We are still seeing increases,” said Williamson County Health Director Cathy Montgomery, adding that the department is still awaiting guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state health department concerning booster shots.

The recent surge forced the Williamson County Health Department to shift its vaccination and testing operations back down to the Williamson County AgExpo Center.

“Our reprieve from the Ag Center was a little bit short-lived. We moved out on July 1, and effective Sept. 7, we were moving back,” Montgomery said.

Mazzuca shared that this surge has not only been tough on the community, but it has been very difficult on hospital staff as their resources and energy have been exhausted.

“It’s been well publicized that hospitals across the country are experiencing staff shortages while managing through this current surge,” he said. “Our staff has worked hard to meet the health care needs of our community over the past 18 months, and although they’re tired, they’re resilient, and they’re committed to this community. They continue to make personal sacrifices — working extended hours, extra shifts or filling in for positions in other areas of the hospital that have open shifts — in their efforts to help every patient that comes through our doors, regardless if they’re vaccinated or unvaccinated, whether they mask or don’t.”

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