GEORGETOWN, Ky. (FOX 56) — The rise in COVID-19 cases across the state has hospitals overwhelmed. And for smaller hospitals that serve rural counties, the pressure is even greater.

The state’s current occupancy rate for inpatient hospital beds is 67% and for ICU beds, the occupancy rate is even greater with less than 200 ICU beds available in the whole state.

The director of the WEDCO District Health Department, Crystal Miller, said “We are facing some very difficult times right now, our hospitalizations rates go up daily.”

Almost 90% of the state’s ICU beds are occupied, which includes close to 500 beds currently in use for COVID-19 patients.

The rate creates challenges for all hospitals, but for small rural hospitals that already have limited beds, that rate could be crippling.

Saint Joseph Mount Sterling Hospital has 48 inpatient beds and 4 ICU beds, which has recently been raised to 6 to accommodate more patients.

President Jennifer Nolan said, “We have patients that are in the ed for an extended period of time that needs to go up to the unit. Oftentimes we try to look at their comfort, it’s not as comfortable to be in an ed stretcher compared to a bed.”

The hospitals are dealing with unique problems related to the spike in cases like less resources, but the biggest challenge right now is staffing.

The WEDCO District Health Department includes Scott, Harrison, and Nicholas counties. The trio is served by 2 hospitals.

Miller added, “There’s a scarcity of healthcare workers. Healthcare workers are leaving their jobs because of burnout and a myriad of issues, so from that standpoint, we face challenges that we weren’t facing in March of 2020.”

At Saint Joseph Mount Sterling, the hospital’s staffing shortages are related directly to the virus itself. Nolan continued, “It’s mainly been an impact on our staff with testing positive or their family members testing positive. And I think part of that is just the time people have to be away to take care of their families, their daycares are closing on and off.”

Georgetown Community Hospital, Bourbon Community Hospital, and Clark Regional Medical Center, also serving rural communities, have all seen a drastic increase in COVID-19 patients in the last week. GCH saw an increase of 46%.