Author: Caroline Schmidt
"I am worried we don't have enough health care workers to care for patients flooding hospitals," said Dr. Jay Bhatt, an internist and adjunct faculty at the UIC School of Public Health. "[The] unprecedented numbers of sick clinical staff [are] wreaking havoc on hospitals and health systems as they do their best to care for patients in this current surge. I have not seen a workforce issue as serious as this, and is deeply concerning."
Recently, the COVID-19 Omicron variant has spread like wildfire, causing another large spike in COVID-19 cases. Although Omicron does not cause illnesses more severe than the symptoms of other variants, it is highly contagious. Currently, about 24% of hospitals are reporting a staffing shortage, and 100 hospitals anticipate a staff shortage in the next week. Dr. Ashish Jha from Brown University is
concerned that the Omicron surge will limit hospitals’ capacity to take care of other people. For example, 40 hospitals in New York have canceled all elective surgeries for the next two weeks. As the demand for COVID treatment skyrockets (138,000 patients in U.S. hospitals), many staff members either got infected or have been told to quarantine. As of this month, there have been 819,000 positive cases among healthcare workers. The people who are working in healthcare during this time are exhausted and overworked. Many nurses are working 12-16 hour shifts. One of the reasons that there are so many patients in hospitals is that those recovering from the coronavirus are having trouble getting back to long term care facilities such as nursing homes.
Fortunately, steps are being taken to help this issue. UMPC in Pittsburgh has reduced OR availability by 15%. This plan has been implemented in a series of steps, and it is working well. This system implemented case prioritization and opened up more OR’s. This idea is being presented at the American Society of Anesthesiologists’ ADVANCE 2022. Also, the CDC has shortened isolation time, so healthcare workers can get back to work sooner; the time for quarantine is now 5 days. It is important that everyone, not just healthcare workers, take measures to keep everyone safe. Dr. Jeff Pothof at UW Madison recommends that all of us do our part by getting vaccinated, which according to him, will allow us to give hospital beds to those in need.