Local medical leaders calling for state, federal help with COVID-19 resources

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Local medical experts say they’re doing their best, when it comes to treating patients for COVID-19.

But as numbers continue to rise, local hospitals are becoming overwhelmed. Cole spoke to Chad Neilsen, the Infection Prevention Director and epidemiologist, who said at this rate-- they’re going to need help from the state.

At the time of this report, UF Health said 178 beds, out of the 500 they have at the 8th street campus are being used to treat COVID-19 patients. (That’s more than one-third of their beds.)

At their North campus, 57 beds were being used at the time of this report, that’s out of 92 beds. This is why they’re desperately seeking help from the state that they have not yet received.

“We are surging at levels we’ve never seen before. This far surpasses what we saw in the winter surge in January,” Neilsen told Action News Jax Courtney Cole.

That’s why local hospitals like UF Health say they need help from the state now, more than ever.

“The public health emergency over the state of Florida and it June 26. And with that, ended a lot of different types of resource avenues and activities that could help during an emergency,” Neilsen explained.

Neilsen said the City of Jacksonville, JFRD, JSO and The Mayor’s Office are doing what they can to help.

But without response on a state or even federal level, they’re continuing to hit a wall in terms of how much help they can provide.

“It’s not always about bed spaces, it’s about having staff to take care of them. By releasing public health emergency resources, it allows us to potentially tap-in to some of those nursing companies or resources that we might not already have, to be able to provide good patient care. So, if this continues on this path, and we don’t get more input from the state or federal, it could really affect how we give care to our patients across the city,” Neilsen explained.

Local doctors need the state to step up in their COVID-19 response efforts, too.

Dr. Sunil Joshi, with the Duval County Medical Society Foundation said, they’re unable to secure any COVID-19 vaccines in his practice.

“When the vaccine first became available for physicians to be able to provide in our practice, the Department of Health had a way for us to order it to order it online, put in the information, and when we completed the process it said that we would hear back from them,” said Dr. Joshi.

He told Cole despite completing the instructions from the state, they’ve received nothing beyond a generic email of acknowledgment.

“As we are having discussions with our patients and trying to get them over their fear of the vaccine, and discussing the risks and benefits and getting to the point where they feel very comfortable getting the shot, if we are not able to then provide them with a vaccine at that time, they are very unlikely to go get it,” Dr. Joshi told Action News Jax.

Cole called and e-mailed the Florida Department of Health to ask what’s holding up vaccination distribution.

She also called and e-mailed the governor’s office to learn if they have any plans to help local hospitals or declare a public health emergency.

She is still waiting to hear back.