Stressed under a record number of COVID-19 patients, hundreds of intensive care units in the country are running out of space and supplies and are competing to hire temporary travel nurses at increasing rates. Many facilities are offered in the south and west.
An Associated Press analysis of federal hospital data shows that since November, the share of US hospitals near the breaking point has doubled. More than 40% of Americans now live in areas outside the ICU space, with only 15% of beds still available.
Intensive care units are the ultimate defense for the sickest among the sick, patients who are almost suffering suffocation or organ failure. Nurses working in the most stressed ICU are exhausted after changing IV bags and monitoring patients on breathing machines.
“You can’t push great people forever. right? I mean, it’s just not possible, “Dr. Dr. Houston Methodist CEO. Mark Boom, who is among several hospital leaders, expects the number of seriously ill COVID-19 patients to plateau. Concerningly, Texas receives an average of 20,000 new cases a day, the third highest number of deaths in the country, and more than 13,000 people hospitalized with symptoms related to COVID-19.
According to Thursday’s data from the COVID Tracking Project, with more than 80,000 current COVID-19 hospital patients in those areas, hospitals in the West and South are still high. Encouragingly, either all petitions for hospitalization appear or trend downstream in all areas. It is unclear whether the vaccine rollout will continue with more infectious versions of the virus and ease of nap.
In New Mexico, a growing hospital system brought in 300 temporary nurses from outside the state at a cost of millions of dollars to deal with the overflow of ICU patients who were treated in converted procedure rooms and surgery suites Was.
The Chief Medical Officer of Presbyterian Healthcare Services in Albuquerque, Drs. “It was terrible,” said Jason Mitchell. He is relieved that the hospital never activated his plan for life-saving care, requiring a triage team to rank patients with numerical scores that are the least likely to survive. Ranks patients on the basis.
“It’s a relief that we never had to do that,” Mitchell said. “It sounds scary because it’s scary.”
In Los Angeles, the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center ran into a shortage of take-home oxygen tanks, which meant that some patients who could otherwise go home were kept longer, picking up the necessary beds. But the biggest problem is the competition with other hospitals for traveling nurses.
“Initially, when COVID surges were hitting one part of the country at a time, itinerant nurses were able to move to more severely affected areas. The hospital’s chief operating officer, Dr. Jeff Smith said that now almost all over the country at the same time, “hospitals are paying twice and thrice what they would normally pay for temporary, travel nurses.”
Houston Methodist Hospital recently paid an $ 8,000 retention bonus to staff nurses to sign up with agencies that would direct them to other hot spots. Salaries for traveling nurses can reach up to $ 6,000 a week, an allure that may benefit a nurse but hospital officials may find it illegal to see nurses who are discharged.
“There are a lot of these agencies that are charging completely ridiculous amounts of money to get ICU nurses,” said Bou. “They go to California, which is in the midst of a boom, but they hunt some ICU nurses there, sending them to Texas, where they charge inappropriate amounts to fill the gaps in Texas, many of which remain Go because nurses moved to Texas. Back to Florida or California
Space is another problem. Augusta University Medical Center in Augusta, Georgia, is treating adult ICU patients under the age of 30 in a children’s hospital. There are now ICU patients in the recovery room, and, if things go haywire, the other areas – the operating room and the endoscopy center – will be the next areas converted for critical care.
To prevent rural hospitals from sending more patients to Augusta, the hospital is using telemedicine to manage those patients at their local hospitals for as long as possible.
“This is a model that I believe will not only survive the epidemic, but will also thrive the epidemic,” Dr. Augusta Hospital’s Chief Medical Officer. Philip Coop said.
Hospitals are pleading with their communities to wear masks and limit gatherings.
The Chief Medical Officer of Cullman Regional Medical Center in Cullman, Alabama, Dr. William Smith said, “The disease is not much respected, which is disappointing.” He sees that changing with more people now personally knowing someone who has died.
“It has taken a lot of people,” he said of the virus, stating that the death toll – 144 people in six months in the county of 84,000 – “has opened its eyes to the randomness of it.”
The hospital hospital’s ICU has been overflowing for six weeks, with 16 virus patients on ventilators in a hospital with only 10 breathing machines a year ago. “You can see the tension in people’s faces and their body language. Smith is enough to take people around.
“Just the fatigue of our employees can affect the quality of care. I have been encouraged that we are able to keep the quality of care high, ”Smith said. “You think you’re in a very precarious situation where errors can happen, but thankfully we’ve managed to stay on top of things.”
Hospitals say they are maintaining high standards for patient care, but experts say that surges compromise many common medical practices. Overwhelmed hospitals may be forced to mobilize MakeShift ICUs and be placed with personnel without any experience. They may opt out of sedatives, antibiotics, IVs or other supplies that they rely on on ventilators to keep patients calm and comfortable.
“It is really challenging and mentally taxing. You are doing what you believe is best practice, ”said Kirsten Henry, a nurse at Medstar Montgomery Medical Center in Olney, Maryland, and a board director for the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses.
In Oklahoma City, OU Medicine Chief Medical Officer Drs. Cameron Mentor said that as promised by the vaccine, expectations are still low as ICU cases continue to grow. Mantor said the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in OU medicine has dropped by more than 100 daily in recent weeks.
“Everybody is being stressed,” Mantor said, looking at week after week, at the end of the week, the spigot is not being closed, not knowing there is a break, the end of the tunnel. I am not seeing cosmic light. “
Associated Press writers Marion Renault in Rochester, Minnesota, Noman Merchant in Houston and Ken Miller in Oklahoma City contributed.
The Associated Press Department of Health and Sciences has support from the Science Education Department of Howard Hughes Medical Institute. AP is solely responsible for all content.