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Inside a small Arkansas town's COVID-19 unit

We've shared the numbers, we've shared the stories of healthcare workers, but we rarely get to actually see what hospitals are dealing with behind closed doors.

SEARCY, Ark. — We've shared the numbers, we've shared the stories of healthcare workers, but we rarely get to actually see what hospitals are dealing with behind closed doors.

THV11 got an inside look at the COVID-19 unit at a Searcy hospital, which provided a firsthand perspective at day-to-day operations. 

Like many hospitals across the state, Unity Health in Searcy is struggling with staffing and capacity. 

President and CEO Steven Webb said they're working on opening up more beds by Sept. and adding travel nurses to ensure they can take care of any patient that walks through their doors.

"We had bed capacity. We had invested and done some renovations to create bed capacity, so it’s really just been about staffing and that’s how we’re able to do it, is get an outside agency to come in and staff those beds for us," he said.

Behind the closed doors and "no visitor" signs lies someone's family member, best friend, or co-worker battling COVID-19.

Webb said this surge is different than the rest.

"It's been really different this time around compared to what it was a year ago because this one has impacted people from [ages] 21 to 90," he said.

Throughout Unity Health's hallways are healthcare workers dressed head-to-toe in PPE, working around the clock, checking on their patients, and making sure they know they're not in this alone. 

Webb said the staff recognizes the importance of their role, but it's still been tough on them.

"It's taxing. They're seeing things that many people shouldn't have to see," he said.

Due to the exhaustion this year has brought, Webb said they have seen a lot of turnover with their staff.

"I think it's all across the hospital. It's nursing, it's respiratory therapy, it's lab, it's pharmacy, it's dietary, it's housekeeping— it's all those areas we need help in," he said.

As of Friday, the hospital is taking care of 15 COVID patients, two of whom are on a ventilator and four are in the ICU. 

While that's down from their peak of 46 patients that they saw at the end of July, Webb said they're always thinking about what could come next.

"I don't know if relief is the right word, but it's more of a pause and how do we prepare for the next phase," he said.

While they can't predict the future, the heroes behind the masks and scrubs are working as hard as they can to take care of their community.

"I want people to know that this is a serious disease and they need to do what they can to protect themselves and think about others first," Webb said.

Unity Health is opening up nine COVID ICU beds and 25 COVID medical beds by the end of September. 

The hospital went back to its old visitor policy where a patient is only allowed one visitor.