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Washington Regional Statement RE Implementation of Phase 4 COVID-19 Surge Plan

Birch G. Wright, MPA
Chief Operating Officer and Administrator,
Washington Regional Medical System

Over the past six weeks, Northwest Arkansas has experienced an exponential surge in the number of individuals hospitalized with COVID-19. On June 17, there were 24 COVID-19 positive patients in NWA hospitals. This week in NWA, we reached an all-time high of 165 COVID inpatients. The region is also seeing more critically ill non-COVID patients than at any other time during the pandemic. This week we reached an all-time high of 127 ICU patients in NWA hospitals. 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. 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.

To address this unsustainable growth in COVID related inpatient hospitalizations and emergency room visits, Washington Regional has implemented Phase 4 of our COVID-19 Surge Plan. This allowed us to open and staff a third dedicated COVID unit by reassigning additional hospital and clinic team members to assist in areas of greatest need in the hospital. To obtain the necessary additional staff required to move to Phase 4 of our surge plan, we will have to postpone some of our non-emergent and elective surgeries and procedures and pause some of our 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. 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.

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.