Hospitals in northeast Ohio are alarmed and overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients, officials say | Health – Community News
Covid-19

Hospitals in northeast Ohio are alarmed and overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients, officials say | Health

As concerns about COVID-19 variants mount, hospitals and emergency rooms in northeast Ohio are reaching capacity, health officials said Wednesday.

Akron hospitals, in particular, are overwhelmed, said Beth Gatlin, spokesperson for the Center for Health Affairs, an agency that represents hospitals in the region.

Hospitals in the Akron-area are preparing to transfer patients to other facilities, but Cleveland hospitals are not an option, as many of them have reduced bed capacity due to staff shortages, she said.

“We’re running out of beds here, so we’re going to talk to Central Ohio,” Gatlin said. “Because of the number of COVID cases, it’s just backing up those beds.”

The main reason hospitals are so stuck is staffing problems, Gatlin said. Hospitals have had to cut back on bed capacity because employees have retired or are sick, she said.

The number of hospitalizations from COVID-19 statewide rose to 3,988 on Wednesday — the highest reported number since September, said John Palmer, director of public affairs at the Ohio Hospital Association. About 1 in 6 patients in Ohio hospitals have COVID-19, he added, and for patients in intensive care, that statistic is 1 in 4.

“Hospitals are very alarmed about what is happening and what could potentially happen,” Palmer said.

While the previous wave of COVID-19 in August and September was mostly concentrated in the southern parts of the state, that is not the case this time, Gatlin said.

“The entire northern region of Ohio is now seeing the brunt of the COVID spike,” Gatlin said. “Everything north of Canton is getting really, really inundated with COVID cases, in and among the community and also in and among health professionals.”

Currently, 891 people have been hospitalized with COVID-19 in Region 2, the area designated by the Ohio Department of Health (ODH), which includes Ashtabula, Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake and Lorain counties.

Hospital admissions peaked at 1,064 in this region last December, Gatlin said.

“We’re working on that, and maybe by mid-December we’ll be about the same size as our peak from last year,” she said. “People are just now starting to get sick after Thanksgiving, so that’s where the hospitals come in.”

In ODH’s Region 5, which includes Summit and 17 other counties in the north-central area, 962 patients are hospitalized with COVID-19. This region peaked at 1,059 hospital admissions in December 2020, Gatlin said.

Cleveland Clinic hospitalizations have doubled in the past month, according to hospital spokeswoman Andrea Pacetti. There are currently 630 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 at the Ohio clinic’s hospitals, compared with 319 as of Nov. 1, Pacetti said.

In addition, emergency room wait times have increased due to bed shortages, and some hospitals in northeast Ohio have seen about 30 patients at a time waiting for the beds to open, she said.

The vast majority of patients hospitalized have the delta variant, the highly transmissible strain of virus that caused a surge in COVID-19 cases in August, Gatlin added.

In early November, cases skyrocketed again, she said, and the increase in hospitalizations usually lags a few weeks from peaks in cases. Students coming home for fall break and the colder weather driving more people in could be possible reasons for the rise, she added.

In addition, states surrounding Ohio’s northern region — such as Michigan — have experienced major COVID-19 spikes, so that could be another reason for the increase in cases, Palmer added.

Hospital admissions are expected to continue to rise as a result of people contracting the virus while gathering for Thanksgiving, he said, so hospitals are likely to triage staff in the coming weeks.

“You’ll see that visitation policies are likely to be reintroduced to try to keep bodies out of the hospital. You’ll even see certain services that would have to postpone or postpone care just to try and free up beds,” Palmer said.

Summa Health in Akron had previously postponed some procedures and reduced bed capacity.

The vast majority — an estimated 80 to 90 percent — of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 have not been vaccinated, Gatlin added. Gatlin is encouraging those who have not yet received a COVID-19 shot to do so to try and avoid a deadly wave this winter.

“Please try to get everyone vaccinated to help with the wave,” she said. “The healthcare workers are tired.”

Those who qualify should also get a booster shot, she added.

Anyone over the age of 18 who is six months away from receiving their COVID-19 vaccine is recommended for a booster.