Morehead hospital is so desperate for staff that it may put coronavirus-positive nurses back to work, in its Covid-19 units

Drs. Adam Howard and William Melahn (St. Claire photo)

Drs. Adam Howard and William Melahn (St. Claire photo)

St. Claire Regional Medical Center in Morehead is so desperate for staff that it may bring back to work nurses who have tested positive for the coronavirus, and assign them to care for patients with Covid-19, Dr. William Melahn, the hospital’s chief medical officer, said in a radio interview.

“If things get much worse, Melahn says St. Claire’s will have to bring back nurses who have tested positive for Covid just to keep things running,” Sheena Goodyear reports for the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.

“Yes, we have a plan for that, actually,” and it’s approved by the state Department for Public Health, Melahn told CBC’s Peter Armstrong. “If we have Covid-positive staff who are … feeling well, that we can use them in Covid-only units. We have two Covid-only units that we can do that with, and that’s certainly on the table already. I don’t think we’re doing it today, but it’s on the table.”

“We’ve hired two nurses in six weeks,” Melahn said. “And nobody can find [nurses]. There’s a really big hospital up the road about 100 miles from us. They are short 200 nurses.” Cincinnati is 100 miles from Morehead.

Asked if there are nurses or doctors or hospital staff that could come from other parts of the U.S. to help, Melahn said, “What we’re finding is everyone around is going through the same thing. That doesn’t mean that all hope is lost. This week we declared, actually, an official disaster, and that allows us to make some flexible changes. We’re a health system, so we have a system of rural clinics around us. We’ve already pulled all those nurses and some of those doctors in.”

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Melahn noted that the hospital will be one of five in Kentucky to get help from the National Guard, a step Gov. Andy Beshear announced Monday. He said Thursday that the hospital “is in disaster mode.”

The hospital’s Covid-19 patient count has exploded. “Thirty-one days ago, we had one in-patient with Covid,” Melahn said. “We usually take care of a total of 75 in-patients per day, all told. This afternoon, I have 67 Covid inpatients.”
He said that’s due to low vaccination rates in the area, which are driven by bad information. “We are not upset at our patients,” he said. “We’re upset about the disinformation or misinformation that’s out there that really fills them with fear. What we have observed is this is a pandemic driven by fear. I mean, these people are afraid of being vaccinated.”

Armstrong asked Melahn, “Do you have hope? Do you have a sense how to get to a brighter, better day?” Melahn replied, “Usually, in an infectious-disease pandemic, the more rapidly it rolls out, the more rapidly it falls off. So … if you want to call that a positive, that’s something that we’re looking forward to.”

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