Mid-South hospital CEOs release urgent COVID-19 op-ed

Mid-South hospital leaders warn the COVID-19 pandemic is not over

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - In a rare move, the leaders of all four major hospital networks in the Mid-South have signed an op-ed to say one thing: The pandemic is not over.

The presidents and CEOs of all the major Mid-South hospitals are expressing concerns in a new op-ed, saying their doctors and nurses need you to do your part in order for them to deal with the season flu along with rapidly rising cases of COVID-19.

The leaders of Regional One Health, Baptist Memorial Healthcare, Methodist LeBonheur Healthcare and Saint Francis Hospitals united to write an op-ed entitled: “Now, More than ever, the Outcome is in our hands.”

They’re urging Mid-Southerners to do more to limit the spread of COVID-19.

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“We are borderline at capacity most days. And that is challenging for our folks,” said Michael Ugwueke, President & CEO of Methodist LeBonheur Healthcare.

“We know you’re tired. But, we cannot give up," the hospital leaders write in the letter.

Ugwueke says the goal is to inspire people in the Mid-South who are fatigued and not wearing masks or socially distancing enough.

“As a community, we need to rise and be able to stop this, if we do nothing,” said Ugwueke. “It’s going to be pretty bad.”

Currently, 92% of acute care beds are being utilized but only 13% of those are COVID-19 patients.

The Shelby County Health Department is not currently concerned about imminent overcrowding in local hospitals. But hospitalizations from COVID-19 lag behind daily case numbers by several weeks.

With a recent dramatic surge in COVID-19 cases in Shelby County, including a new daily record of 835 cases reported Tuesday, local health experts worry about the upcoming holidays.

“We’re particularly concerned about hospital capacity as we get into the holiday season,” said Alisa Haushalter, Director Shelby County Health Department.

“There is not enough nurses to go around, and it’s very challenging,” said Ugweueke. “That’s the reason why we’re begging the community to help.”

The hospital presidents and CEOs say what happens next, including potential negative impact to our local economy, is in our hands.

They end the letter saying "the virus wins if we give up.

CLICK HERE to read the entire op-ed.

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