JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – The Emergency Department at the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) has experienced a backlog of patients who need to be placed in emergency beds.

Unvaccinated COVID patients are “having a huge effect,” said Dr. Alan Jones, associate vice chancellor for clinical affairs and former chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine. “We know that 90-plus percent of new infections are unvaccinated. If we didn’t have all those patients to deal with, we wouldn’t be this strained.”

The Emergency Department’s trauma section has four trauma and six treatment rooms. Almost every room in the department is full, according to Emergency Department technician Hilton Rahaim.

Ambulances line up outside the UMMC Emergency Room

“If you think about the entire state as being one huge health system, trying to function in unison, when your input is more than your capacity, you’re in a disaster situation. That’s what we are experiencing now,” said Dr. Kendall McKenzie, professor and chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine and a veteran battlefield surgeon.

“The Smith County Watermelon Festival. The Neshoba County Fair. The opening of schools without a mask mandate. I’m waiting for that shoe to drop,” said Dr. Andy Wilhelm, division chief of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine. “That could be the catastrophe that pushes us over. When the ER fills up and we (UMMC’s four ICUs) fill up, it’s a logjam.”

“When your resuscitation rooms are all filled with very sick people and you have a trauma patient come in who must have a room, there are inherent challenges,” McKenzie said. “Over the past 18 months, our trauma numbers have actually gone up. That adds an additional burden to the system.”

As of 10 a.m. Thursday, August 19, there were 10 patients in the Emergency Department waiting for an ICU room to become available, nine waiting for a regular room, and three COVID-positive patients in route by ambulance. 

To help with the increasing number of COVDI-19 patients, two field hospitals have been sent up at the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) in Jackson. Samaritan’s Purse opened a field hospital at UMMC on Wednesday.