MOREHEAD, Ky. — Spikes in COVID-19 cases have forced a central Kentucky hospital to convert a unit into an overflow COVID-19 ICU unit.

What You Need To Know

  • Morehead hospital turns a unit into a COVID-19 surge ICU

  • A central Kentucky doctor said it is "surreal"

  • He said most of the admissions involve unvaccinated patients

  • He said there are some cases of people who are vaccinated but do not get as sick as unvaccinated people

Saint Claire HealthCare hospital’s Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr. William Melahn said this is a first in his career, and the volume of admissions is increasing.

“I have never seen anything like this,” Melahn said.

In his 26 years of serving in health care, he said this surge in cases is hard to believe.

“We plan for this, of course, because this is sort of our worst-case scenario. And so we train for it and we plan for it, but we've never actually had to do it,” Melahn said. “This is the first time in my career and I feel very confident saying this is the first time in the history of this hospital that we've ever had to have a surge intensive care unit. Never seen that. Never seen it. It’s still— it’s still a little surreal.”

Throughout this week, St. Claire’s COVID Task Force began preparations for a possible spike in cases.

“We're seeing a very steep curve of increases of patients requiring care, and a steep curve of patients requiring critical care, and almost all of that is in our unvaccinated— 55-60% of our population that did not get vaccinated,” Melahn said.

They transformed a post-anesthesia care unit for incoming COVID-19 positive cases.

“Our 19 very sick patients here may not sound huge but, it's massive because it's happening on top of other illness. And I only have so many nurses, I only have so many doctors, I only have so many beds,” Melahn said.

He said this is causing hospital staff to be overwhelmed.

“And if we still see the rate of increase, it is going to be getting harder and harder and harder for us to do what we're doing. We will do everything that we can and we will never stop. But at some point, everything saturates and we're getting there,” Melahn said.

The CMO said they do rarely admit vaccinated patients, but he said they don’t get as sick as unvaccinated patients.