Western US hospitals are under siege as COVID-19 floods ICUs – Community News
Covid-19

Western US hospitals are under siege as COVID-19 floods ICUs

Hospitals in some parts of the US are already starting to see the impact of a fall wave of Covid-19 infections, the latest sign that the health care system is still under severe strain from the virus, even in places where relatively high vaccination rates have been achieved.

Intensive care beds occupied by Covid-19 patients are rising in 12 states from two weeks earlier, with most in a continuous swath running from Arizona and New Mexico, through the Great Plains and into Minnesota. In several western states, many doctors and nurses have not caught their breath from the latest round of infections.

“We were at full capacity and couldn’t transfer patients” until a few days ago, said Jennifer Riley, vice president of operations at Memorial Hospital at Craig, a rural facility in western Colorado’s remote Moffat County with about 25 beds. . “It’s hard to believe we’re so far into the pandemic.”

The US has some uncertain months ahead of it, with the highly contagious delta strain still circulating as the country enters its traditional winter virus season. Many parts of the US are also experiencing unseasonably warm autumns, and many regions have yet to see what will happen as frigid temperatures push people inside, where viruses spread more easily.

The widespread distribution of Covid-19 vaccines has seen remarkable success in keeping vaccinated people alive and out of hospitals. But it’s still not clear what vaccination threshold will ease the relentless burden on the health care system. New therapies such as a pill developed by Pfizer Inc. will undoubtedly help, but that treatment won’t be widely available for a few months.

In western states like Colorado, hospital staff are under siege and exhausted. Many regional Covid-19 waves tend to rise and fall rapidly, but in many western states, regions seem to be caught between the summer and fall waves, and the pressure on hospitals drags on more or less continuously.

Colorado on Tuesday activated a hospital staffing plan for “crisis standards of care,” giving the industry broad powers to fill staffing gaps. According to the Ministry of Health and Environment, the staffing plan provides the opportunity to train employees “just in time” to take on responsibilities beyond their normal role and certification level. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has also sent medical teams to provide support.

Riley’s rural hospital has had to helicopter many Covid-19 patients — and those with other serious illnesses and injuries — to Grand Junction, Colorado, 240 miles (241 kilometers) away and Denver 198 miles away.

The resurgence is a warning to states elsewhere in the country.

“This is affecting Colorado right now,” said Donna Wehe, director of communications at San Luis Valley Health, which operates a 49-bed hospital in southern Colorado’s Alamosa, home to 9,000 residents. “But what about hitting 45 days?”


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