High patient census stretches staff

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 8, 2000

Healthcare workers in the Adams County area are working long hours this flu season, according to hospital officials.

Natchez Regional&160;Medical Center and Natchez Community Hospital are continuing to operate with existing staff and PRN staff, said Karen Fiducia, interim CEO.

&uot;We have enough staff to cover the work,&uot; Fiducia said. &uot;I just hope the staff stays healthy.&uot;

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This concern becomes more pronounced as workers continue to put in double shifts caring for extremely sick people.

&uot;Our ER Department is extremely busy with very ill patients,&uot; said Fern Jensen, associate executive director of nursing at Natchez Community Hospital.

Occupancy at Community has remained constant at 100 percent, Jensen said.

&uot;The staff has been key to accommodating this workload,&uot; she said. &uot;I cannot commend them enough for the many long hours and extra shifts they have worked.&uot;

Luridean Jackson, nurse manager at Natchez Community Hospital says the staff is doing what they have to do to get through a busy time.

&uot;This is the busiest we’ve been on a consistent basis,&uot; Jackson said.

Staff is crossing over from different units and working additional shifts to cover the number of patients in the hospital.

Jackson said to make it through, the staff cling to good humor and the knowledge that even the flu can’t last forever.

&uot;We laugh and joke,&uot; she said. &uot;And we try to let people have time off when they get a day off -&160;you know we try not to bother them.&uot;

Patient census has shown no signs of letting up soon at any of the Miss-Lou hospitals.

&uot;We’ve opened up everything,&uot; Fiducia said. &uot;We’ve doubled up in some rooms, our outpatient beds are now inpatient beds, and ER beds are full.&uot;

While many patient admissions are for upper respiratory and flu-like symptoms, others cover the usual gamut of diagnoses, Fiducia said.

Vernon Stevens, executive director at Riverland Medical Center in Ferriday, La., said that patient census there was holding at 48.

The full beds at the Adams County hospitals stands in sharp contrast to the low census experienced earlier this year.

&uot;This is not unusual in health care,&uot; Fiducia said of the broad swing in patient load.