‘I was mad’: Tampa nurse moves four bodies to morgue in one day as COVID-19 patients overwhelm hospital

Coronavirus

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA/NBC) — A rush of patients is stretching a Tampa hospital beyond its limit as the number of COVID-19 cases spike and reported deaths reach a record high, NBC Nightly News reports.

NBC reporter Gabe Guitierrez was granted access inside the ICU at St. Joseph’s Hospital on Tuesday. Of the 26 operational beds in the room, 25 were full. The hospital has set up overflow beds in other parts of the facility, Gutierrez reported.

Baycare Health System, the hospital’s parent company, now has about 1,200 COVID-19 patients, shattering its previous record of 700 last summer.

“The amount of death and dying that we’re seeing is—in my whole nursing career, I’ve never seen anything like it,” said the hospital’s nurse manager, Tamie Saglimbeni.

Nurse Jamie Lillo told NBC Nightly News she brought four patients to the morgue the day before.

“I went home last night and I was mad,” Lillo said. “Because I don’t need to be doing this right now. We could have avoided this whole wave if more people in our country had gone and just gotten two shots.”

With the hospital running out of beds, ambulances often have to wait longer to drop off patients. The hospital has also been diverting ambulances to other facilities in the area.

“For example, if we’re in a critical care bypass, we’re saying that we don’t have beds or staff to provide care for critical care patients,” hospital President Kimberly Guy explained.

The U.S. saw a 12% increase in new COVID-19 cases over the past week, but deaths were up 23%.

Just this week, Lillo said she helped care for a fellow nurse who contracted COVID-19 and did not survive.

“It could be me, it could be any nurse, it could be anyone we know, and once you’re in the bed, in the ICU, you don’t have any control anymore,” Lillo said. “I’m still here, and I’m still trying, but I want to make people better, that’s what I do, and I can’t, and it’s awful.”

Watch the NBC Nightly News report in the video player above.

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