Ballad CEO: Rising COVID-19 inpatient numbers and pediatric ICU patients may cause ER delays

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JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Ballad Health CEO Alan Levine said on Saturday that an influx of COVID-19 cases could impact wait times for all in the health care system.

Levine said in a tweet that the system is now caring for over 100 COVID-19 inpatients as case numbers rise across the region. Alongside adult patients, Levine said they are now seeing children in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU).

Currently, there are four pediatric patients seeking care for COVID-19 at Niswonger Children’s Hospital. Of the four, three are in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, one of whom is on a ventilator. The fourth patient is seeking care in the medical-surgical unit. Ballad Health will update total pediatric case volumes presenting at all Ballad Health hospitals, as it does with total case volumes, in the coming days.

Ballad Health

In response to increases, Levine asked the CEO of Niswonger Children’s Hospital to prepare a “surge plan” for a possible influx of child Delta variant patients.

Citing staffing issues, Levine said that members of the public can expect delays while waiting for emergency treatment due to the increased strain and a national nursing shortage.

Levine also said Ballad will “always prioritize those with life-threatening emergencies.”

Describing the process in a Facebook post, Levine said that anyone entering the emergency care system will be examined and those with acute needs will be taken in for treatment. Others with symptoms that can wait will most likely face increased wait times or be rerouted to other facilities.

“I know this will be frustrating for many,” said Levine. “And we deeply regret that.”

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