‘We could have avoided this’: COVID-19 ICU at St. Joseph’s Hospital nearing capacity


TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — At St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa, it’s normal to deliver good news along with the bad – such as the birth of a baby or a successful surgery.

But lately, as coronavirus cases surge, it’s been far too grim.

“I went home last night and I was mad,” nurse Jaime Lillo said. “I don’t need to be doing this right now.”

Monday alone, Lillo brought four patients to the morgue.

“We could have avoided this whole wave if more people in our country would have gone and gotten just two shots,” she said.

The BayCare Health System, which St. Joseph’s is part of, now has about 1,200 COVID-19 patients. Last year’s record was 700.

Inside, the Medical ICU is now the “COVID ICU,” and 25 of the 26 beds available are filled with COVID patients. It’s something the nurses say they have never seen.

Outside, ambulances wait to drop off patients because too many exist. Oftentimes, the ambulances are re-routed to other hospitals.

But even there, similar problems exist.

“For example, if we’re in critical care bypass, we’re saying that we don’t have the beds or staff to provide care for critical care patients,” St. Joseph’s Hospital President Kimberly Guy said.

Health care professionals want the community to know death does not discriminate. Just this week, Lillo helped care for a fellow nurse who came down with COVID and did not survive.

“It could be me. It could be any nurse, it could be anyone we know,” Lillo said. “And once you’re in the bed and ICU, you don’t have control anymore.”

“I’m still here and I’m trying, but I want to make people better,” she added. “That’s what I do and I can’t. It’s awful.”

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