Statement from Commissioner Bud Owens Concerning the Health Care Crisis

I would like to take just a moment to address the current healthcare crisis – and it is a crisis. As a regional and state leader in pre-hospital healthcare and a county commissioner, I am highly concerned about the current COVID19 hospitalizations. The Delta Variant is raging and our area hospitals are above capacity, which makes it very difficult for those who are experiencing other medical and traumatic emergencies. Many of the hospitals across our state, now inundated with coronavirus patients, have warned they simply don’t have enough beds and staff to take any more.

The number of COVID-19 patients in Georgia’s hospitals has climbed to nearly 4,500, with nearly 90% of the state’s ICU beds in use. In this region – we are full with some overextended. Many hospitals are diverting patients headed for their emergency rooms and ICUs to other facilities that also unfortunately have no beds.

The vast majority (actually approximately 98%) of the new hospitalized patients have not taken the vaccine. Only 41% of Georgia’s population is fully vaccinated, well below the national average.

Hospitals are short on nurses, respiratory therapists, ICU staff. EMS agencies already facing a national workforce shortage are now struggling even more to keep up with the high demands. Today I learned that in North Carolina they have national guardsmen driving their ambulances in order to keep them running.

If you are not in the “healthcare world” you may not be visually seeing this crisis. Let me tell you – it is more real than you can imagine. Just over the last few days we have lost several key healthy and active EMS workers and firefighters across the state to this virus. Many of us are losing family and friends again – this time it is including more younger and healthier people.

Hospitals are dealing with more patients in their 30s, 40s and 50s than during previous surges — likely a reflection that many older residents have gotten vaccinated, Georgia’s Dept of Public Health Commissioner Kathleen Toomey said yesterday.

Schools are now open, teachers and students are getting sick. The reality is this virus is back with a vengeance and the only protection we have is common sense usage of personal protective equipment such as masks, gloves and sanitizers; frequent hand washing; and yes – vaccination. The vaccine is working. It doesn’t prevent coronavirus but it is providing the human body with the ability to fight off the virus and hopefully will keep many from the hospital ventilators or the hearse ride to the funeral home.

We just came from vacation and in one town we visited, they are nearing 80% of the population who have been vaccinated. That town had no Covid cases while we were there. That tells me the vaccine is working to protect.

My message to you is simple – I implore our citizens to take the time to research for yourself the facts of this vaccine, not the junk – the politics – and the misinformation that is being spread – not the advise from a well meaning friend on facebook or some conspiracy theorist from across the country. There are reputable places with factual information so you can learn the facts. Please listen to the scientists and experts, pray and ask God to open your eyes, talk to your doctor that you know and trust. Please make the decision to do this for your family, your friends, yourself. Make the decision to live.

I am sickened and heartbroken over what I see people experiencing everyday – our ER doctors are tired of having to intubate patients that had a full life ahead of them.

Please take this seriously and prepare. I am not only worried about what is happening today, but I also fear what the near future holds.
I care about my community and I care about each of you.


– M.L. “Bud” Owens, Commissioner

Author: Keith King

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