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Uniontown Highlands hospitals seeing slow rise in COVID patients

WVU Medicine Uniontown Hospital is currently navigating an increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations.

Uniontown, Highlands hospitals seeing slow rise in COVID patients

By Mark Hofmann mhofmann@heraldstandard.com


Fayette County’s two hospitals have seen a rise in COVID-19 patients recently, but neither are experiencing serious issues finding beds for those who need care.

“The hospital has definitely seen a slow rise in COVID inpatients,” said Dr. David Hess, CEO of WVU Medicine Uniontown Hospital. “The patients seem younger and sicker as compared to the previous surges.”

Hess said the rise began two weeks ago, but hasn’t been as fast of an uptick as it was in 2020.

At Highland’s Hospital in Connellsville, Director of Development Vicki Meier said they have also seen a slight increase with COVID-19 patients, but agreed increase wasn’t as steep as last year.

“But,” she said, “we are also seeing an increase in COVID-19 testing.”

Meier said the hospital is following its preparedness plan, put in place at the beginning of the pandemic, to ensure there is not a strain on resources.

She said nothing out of the ordinary has occurred with available bed space and wait times in the emergency room, but noted wait times can change on a daily basis and depend on the diagnosis of each patient.

Hess said the staff at Uniontown Hospital is doing a “phenomenal job” managing the higher volume of patients.

“Their tremendous efforts have allowed us to continue to care for the community in the same high quality way we have in the past,” Hess said.

He said the hospital is preparing for a continued rise in the number of COVID-19 cases and remain in frequent contact with their sister hospitals in West Virginia, Ohio and Maryland, all of which have seen higher volumes than in Uniontown.

“Therefore, we are preparing for more COVID patients,” he said.

Hess said bed space is currently tight, but the hospital’s staff continues to care for all patients seeking assistance at the facility.

“The emergency department staff has seen significant surges at times that have impacted our usually very low wait times, but they have done heroic efforts to make sure critical patients are seen immediately,” Hess said, adding that longer wait times are typically for non-critical issues like sore throats or sprains. “We have had some days with noncritical patients having wait times of over two hours, but the frequency of this type of wait is not common.”

Officials at both hospitals ask anyone considering a trip to the emergency room to consider whether their ailment could instead be treated by a primary care physician or at an urgent care center.

“Some of these issues could be appropriately treated elsewhere and free up our staff to care for the sickest patients that should be seen immediately in the emergency room,” Hess said, adding that he encourages everyone to get vaccinated.

At Uniontown Hospital, patients and visitors are asked to be masked and maintain social distancing.

“The most acutely ill are a priority,” said Susan Mongell, RN Director of Nursing for Highlands Hospital. “Our goal is to keep the community healthy and safe with the least amount of exposure to any communicable illnesses as we are in the flu season as well.”

Highlands Hospital is requiring visitors to wear a mask and added that vaccinations are recommended. Those having an emergency and entering into the ER are asked to enter the facility with a mask.