Washington Regional reaches all-time high of COVID, ICU patients, enters Phase 4 of surge plan


Washington Regional Medical Center officials on Thursday said the hospital is dealing with the most serious situation it has encountered since the beginning of the pandemic. The facility will enter Phase 4 of its COVID plan to address the “unsustainable growth” of COVID-related inpatient hospitalizations and emergency room visits.

COO Birch Wright said area hospitals have reached an all-time high of 165 COVID inpatients, up from just 24 on June 17, as well as an all-time high of 127 ICU patients this week.

“These volumes are having an unprecedented impact on health systems in our region, including Washington Regional, largely due to the need for hospital nursing staff and available beds to be directed to the care of COVID inpatients,” Wright said. “What this means for our community is that if you or a loved one go to the emergency room; you will likely face longer wait times.”

Wright said Washington Regional will open a third dedicated COVID-19 unit, and will reassign additional hospital and clinic team members to assist with patients hospitalized as a result of the virus as part of the updated surge plan.

The hospital will also postpone non-emergency and elective surgeries and procedures, and pause some clinic operations.

“It is crucial that the NWA community understand this current surge is the most serious situation we have encountered since the beginning of the pandemic,” Wright said. “The concern that local health care systems could be overwhelmed has become reality. Unfortunately, it is entirely possible that we will be required to implement additional measures in the future as we have not yet reached the projected peak in hospitalizations.”

Wright ended his statement with a plea for those who haven’t been vaccinated to go ahead and get their shot, and for the community to do their part to slow the pace of the rapidly spreading virus.

At the outset of the pandemic, our community supported health care workers. We need that support now more than ever. To ensure Washington Regional and other hospitals can provide the care our community needs, we must stop the spread of this virus. Here is what we ask:

  • If you are vaccinated, please encourage friends and family to get vaccinated and continue to be vigilant.
  • If you are not vaccinated, please get vaccinated today. If you are hesitant or have questions about the vaccine, call our COVID-19 Hotline at 479.463.2055 to speak to a medical professional.
  • Regardless of vaccination status, wear a mask when out in public. The prevalence of the virus in our community is high – we need everyone to mask up and stay safe to help us flatten the curve.
  • Practice social distancing. Regularly wash your hands and avoid large gatherings.
  • Stay home when you are sick.

Washington Regional has been here for you throughout the pandemic. We will do everything in our power to protect and care for our community. Please do your part to help.