‘We’re tired.’ Nurses beg Georgians to get vaccinated

With the number of positive COVID-19 patients increasing every day at its Brunswick and Camden Campus hospitals, Southeast Georgia Health System nurses and physicians are pleading with the community to get vaccinated.

“We’re tired, and we’re at our wits’ end,” says Jan Jones, a nurse and director of Patient Care Services at Southeast Georgia Health System. “As soon as a patient is discharged from our critical care unit, or worse, is deceased, there’s another patient to put in that bed. It’s like a revolving door that we can’t stop.”

Similar to most hospitals across the nation, Southeast Georgia Health System is reporting a sharp rise in COVID-19 hospitalized patients. Health System leadership attributes the increase to the more contagious delta variant, low vaccination rates and relaxed safety measures.

“This summer we were starting to feel some relief with our COVID-19 patient census hovering between four to eight patients in early July,” says Michael D. Scherneck, president and CEO, Southeast Georgia Health System. “People began to relax. They stopped wearing masks and social distancing. Even though the CDC recommended that unvaccinated people continue to wear masks, you rarely saw anyone wearing one. Yet, as of today, our community’s vaccination rate is less than 40%, and we need to reach 70% to achieve herd immunity.”

Due to the increased patient volumes and growing positivity rates in the community, the Health System has reinstated visitor restrictions, limiting patients to one visitor per day.

“We regret having to limit visitors, and we realize the impact it has on our patients and their families. But our primary concern is the health and well-being of our team members and patients. We must protect them from possible exposure,” says Scherneck.

The Health System is also postponing some elective surgeries, particularly those that require an overnight stay.

“With such a high census of COVID-19 patients, we’ve had to convert regular patient rooms into coronavirus rooms,” says Alan K. Brown, M.D., chief medical officer. “More importantly, we need the nursing staff to be available to care for COVID-19 patients.”

Brown adds, “We had hoped the vaccine would bring us the relief we all so desperately need, especially our nurses. It’s very hard and disheartening for our health care teams to be going through this again. People need to get their vaccine. While it’s true that there’s still a chance of contracting the virus after being vaccinated, the vaccine reduces the risk of becoming seriously ill and being hospitalized. The vaccine has been proven to be safe and effective and it’s free. There’s no reason to delay getting a vaccine.”

Jones agrees, “This surge isn’t like the ones we experienced last year. The delta variant is much more contagious and it’s impacting much younger patients, even those who don’t have chronic health issues. It’s so sad when we have to put a 20 or 30 year old on a ventilator. We just need people to realize that this virus doesn’t discriminate. You can be young and healthy and still end up hospitalized in a critical care bed. Please get the vaccine to protect yourself and others.”

The Health System offers free COVID-19 vaccines to everyone age 12 and older at its Brunswick and Camden campuses; dates and addresses are listed on the Health System’s website at sghs.org/covid19-vaccine. Individuals with questions about COVID-19 symptoms can call the Health System’s free screening hotline at 912-466-7222.

HOW TO GET VACCINATED: COVID-19 has killed more than 20,000 Georgia residents. Don’t let yourself or your loved ones die from a preventable virus. COVID vaccines are free and widely available statewide without insurance or identification. To find a vaccination location or to schedule an appointment, visit https://dph.georgia.gov/covid-vaccine.

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