Message from Dr. Pinson: Impact of the Delta Variant on VUMC and our Region

Colleagues,

Less than four weeks ago VUMC’s 7-hospital system was caring for a total of 10 patients admitted for COVID-19. Today, largely due to the delta variant, there are 83 inpatients battling the virus in our hospitals.

Nearly all COVID inpatients we care for now are unvaccinated. Data on the effectiveness of COVID vaccines continue to show that each one prevents serious illness, hospitalizations and death.

Unlike last year when a majority of our COVID patients were elderly, now they are all ages. The overall severity of their illness has increased, causing longer lengths of stay.    

We are experiencing this increase at the same time as increased admissions associated with trauma season. The increase in traumas, along with customary high traffic in our Adult Emergency Department, staffing challenges in clinical areas and an increased demand for surgical services, are impacting our operations. Across the country, the ability to recruit hospital workers is harder than ever, and Nashville is no exception.  

Vanderbilt University Adult Hospital is seeing these challenges while Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt is experiencing record admissions through a seasonal shift in pediatric viral illnesses like respiratory syncytial virus. As a result, our hospitals are full.  

We have learned many lessons during the past 18 months about how to keep our patients and each other safe while managing our hospitals and clinics as efficiently as possible during the pandemic. Despite the experience we now possess, we find it necessary to begin rescheduling a limited number of scheduled inpatient procedures in our Adult Hospital until the current wave of the virus can be brought under tighter control.

To help with volume-related issues we are also communicating with area EMS providers about Adult Emergency Department volumes, and with other area hospitals about the scarcity of available beds for transfers.  

What we are also learning in this fourth wave is that although vaccinations limit serious illnesses and hospitalizations, they aren’t as effective at lowering infection risk and the potential to spread the virus to others.  

Our top priority is to protect our patients and each other, which means even if you are vaccinated, additional precautions are necessary. This includes following our Revised COVID-19 Masking Guidance to help prevent infections and adhering to Occupational Health’s guidelines for Exposure, Infection, and Return-to-Work if you are symptomatic so you do not spread the virus to others.

I want to express my appreciation for the dedication and hard work of every member of our team throughout the pandemic. You are extraordinary.

I hoped to be sharing better news at this point, but the reality is we are once again facing the increased strain to care for all those who need us. Your support will see us through this wave and the challenges we will encounter.

Here are some ways we can all help each other:

  • Stay informed and follow all updated guidelines posted on our Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information for Employees and Patients website and through MyVUMC.
     
  • If you are not vaccinated already, please consider doing so as soon as possible. The vaccines are safe and effective.
     
  • If you are vaccinated – thank you for protecting yourself and being a leader. I encourage you to talk with those who are not vaccinated to help answer their questions and help them make the decision to become vaccinated.
     
  • Follow VUMC’s newly revised COVID-19 Masking Guidance and the updated summary of all safety practices.
     

We will see our way through this as a team, supporting one another to care for those who need our help.

Sincerely,
C. Wright Pinson, MBA, MD
Deputy Chief Executive Officer
Chief Health System Officer