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'More Than 100% Capacity': NH Hospitals Stressed By Increase In COVID Cases

EXETER, NH (CBS) - Hospital leaders in New Hampshire are warning that the state's healthcare system is under stress due to the latest increase in COVID-19 cases.

"We want the public to know that the health system in all of New Hampshire is under the most duress I've seen in 25 years of working as an emergency physician," said Dr. Neil Meehan, Chief Physician Executive at Exeter Hospital.

On Friday, the New Hampshire's Department of Health and Human Services announced 1,450 new positive cases.

Meehan says 25 to 35 percent of patients at Exeter have COVID. Other patients have delayed care, causing overflow issues.

"We are more than 100% capacity and that's been going on for days. Our emergency room is housing people up to 125, 150% of our capacity," Meehan said.

The hospital is getting creative to deal with the influx by treating overflow patients in the surgical recovery area and even in a decontamination bay.

Chief Nurse Executive Donna McKinney says the situation is also impacting the mental health of staff.

"If you think about the beginning of COVID there was accolades for health care workers. There was a recognition. It was great. It's not there anymore," McKinney said.

On Thursday, New Hampshire's Health and Human Service Commissioner asked lawmakers for flexibility spending federal funding to tackle the state's hospital bed shortage.

"What we do know is our hospitals are transferring patients as far away as Connecticut and Albany, New York, to get the right level of care that they need," Commissioner Lori Shibinette said.

Meehan and McKinney are now pleading with the public to get vaccinated and mask up.

"We have a lower vaccination rate than the rest of New England and we really need to improve that. That is probably the number one thing we can all do right now," Meehan said.

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