Servies: Witham beds filling with unvaccinated COVID patients


Boone County Health Officer Dr. Herschell Servies said Witham Health Services, the county’s primary hospital, is caring for an increasing number of COVID-19 patients, most of whom are not vaccinated.

“We’re like every other hospital. We are struggling with patients,” Servies said Sept. 15. “Generally speaking, we have an eight-bed COVID unit, but this time last week we had 18 patients in the hospital with COVID.”

Witham has two intensive care units. Tthe hospital moved some patients out of one of the units into a different area of the hospital to accommodate the influx of COVID-19 patients, Servies said.

As of Sept. 15, Servies said the hospital still had “10 or 11 people still in with COVID, but it varies day to day.”

The increase in COVID-19 patients has affected other hospital services. For example, Servies said a recent patient who had “a rather complex abdominal surgery” waited in the hospital’s emergency room for 43 hours before a bed opened in an intensive care unit.

“But that’s not unique to us,” Servies said. “That’s just the way it is. And, of course, with that high census of COVID patients, that makes it hard for us to do our normal business of being a hospital. We have unvaccinated patients in beds that are usually for somebody else. With COVID now, trying to do an orthopedic case or a general surgery case or a heart case, we struggle with beds.”

Witham had five available beds in the entire hospital the morning of Sept. 15, Servies said. Five surgeries also were scheduled that day for patients that would require in-patient beds after surgery, he said, meaning the hospital’s beds were “essentially full” when the day started. He added that staffing shortages have also made treating patients more difficult.

“Our nurses, bless their hearts, are like everybody else, they are struggling,” Servies said. “Our (doctors) are the same way. Everybody, like the general public, is over it, but we’re not. Countywide, in June we only had 125 (COVID-19 cases). In July, we went to 250, and then (in) August we went to 650. And throughout the first two and a half weeks of this month, we are at almost 600 already. It’s definitely still out there, still going.”

Servies strongly recommends residents who are unvaccinated to schedule an appointment. To do so, visit