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Cleveland Clinic Martin Health shows strain on nurses, resources during COVID spike

A hospital room at Cleveland Clinic Martin Health on Aug. 20, 2021.jpg
Posted at 4:18 PM, Aug 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-22 21:41:37-04

MARTIN COUNTY, Fla. — Cleveland Clinic Martin Health opened its doors Friday to show how the spike in COVID-19 cases is impacting their ICUs and healthcare workers.

“It’s really heartbreaking and some days it’s traumatizing,” said Interim Nurse Manager Melissa Bennett.

Bennett showed WPTV how the ICUs have been converted into COVID wards, with COVID-19 patients now taking more than half of hospital beds.

“We’ve had to completely convert the 14 bed ICU into a COVID unit and then we overflowed into our surgical unit,” Bennett said.

She said the hospital didn’t anticipate the spike in July, and had been scaling back COVID resources for some time as cases were briefly on the decline.

Bennett says patients are younger, sicker, and about 90% are unvaccinated.

She described patients in their teens, 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s being put on ventilators and treated by laying on their stomachs to provide relief to their lungs.

People dying are younger, too.

“It’s heartbreaking for us to have to console their children when they come in and have to say goodbye. We’re not used to seeing that,” Bennett said. "I have had to console teenagers who have lost their mom or their dad.”

Bennett joined Cleveland Clinic leadership to give the community a full picture of what’s going on inside local hospitals,

Dr. Richard Rothman with Cleveland Clinic Florida echoed concerns about beds filling up quickly. “6 weeks ago we had 49 patients with the coronavirus hospitalized at our facilities throughout Cleveland Clinic Florida. Today we have nearly 400. That’s a 700% increase in cases in 6 weeks,” Dr. Rothman said.

“Our ICUs are full at capacity. We have multiple patients to a room on breathing machines,” Dr. Rothman continued.

“We set new records it seems every day,” said Cleveland Clinic Martin Health President, Rob Lord.

“We have not had to turn anyone away for emergent care but we are reaching a tipping point,” said Dr. Greg Rosencrance, President of Cleveland Clinic Indian River Hospital

The surge in patients is also impacting oxygen supplies in hospitals across the state. Cleveland Clinic leadership said they typically have enough oxygen to last a week,

They now have just enough for up to two days, "meaning our teams are having to make decisions about who should and who shouldn’t receive oxygen,” Dr. Rothman said.

If there is a hurricane, they worry oxygen supplies could dwindle.

“What do we do if a truck can’t get to our facilities to refill the oxygen tanks,” Dr. Rothman said.

The only way they see to stop the rise is through vaccination.

For Bennett, that could mean an end to 16-hour, back to back COVID unit shifts, emotionally draining treatments, and fewer devastating outcomes.

Lord stressed that nurses and doctors are an exhaustive resource.

“We are emotionally fatigued,” Bennett said.

“I know we make a difference but there are some days you feel you’re not making enough of a difference. And there are days when you think if this person had just gotten vaccinated there would be a different outcome,” Bennett said.

Nurses and healthcare workers have been meeting with counselors to manage grief and stress in both group and one-on-one settings.