The rapid increase in COVID-19 infections across the United States is causing a shortage of nurses and other frontline workers in virus hotspots that can no longer keep up with the influx of unvaccinated patients and workers losing to burnout and profitable exits. temporary state vehicles.
FloridaLouisiana Arkansas And Oregon all together has more people hospitalized with COVID-19 than at any other point in the pandemic, and the nursing staff is seriously overwhelmed.
in a Florida, cases of the virus filled so many hospital beds that ambulance services and fire departments are straining to respond to emergencies. Pinellas County Administrator Barry Burton said some patients wait inside ambulances for up to an hour before hospitals in St. Petersburg, Florida, accept — a process that usually takes about 15 minutes.
Joe Kanter, Louisiana’s chief public health official, said someone who had a heart attack bounced back from six hospitals before finding an emergency room in New Orleans that could take him.
“It’s a real painful situation,” Kanter said. “There are not enough qualified personnel in the state at the moment to care for all of these patients.”
Michelle Thomas, a registered nurse and emergency department manager at a hospital in Tucson, Arizona, quit three weeks ago after hitting a wall.
“There was never a time when we could take our breath away,” Thomas said on Tuesday. “I’ve gotten to this point… I can’t do that anymore. It’s just been taken advantage of.”
Other nurses helped deal with being alone in rooms with dying patients and carrying cell phones so family members could say their final goodbyes.
“It’s incredibly taxing and traumatic,” said Thomas, who wasn’t sure if she would ever return to nursing.
Julie Staub, executive vice president, said Miami’s Jackson Memorial Health System, Florida’s largest medical provider, has lost nurses to staffing agencies and other hospitals and pandemic fatigue. The hospital’s CEO says nurses are being tempted to stay away from jobs in other states at double and triple the salary.
Staub said system hospitals have begun paying retention bonuses to nurses who agree to stay for a specified period. To cover the shortfall, nurses who agree to work overtime are paid regular time and half overtime plus $500 for each additional 12-hour shift. Even then, the hospital sometimes still has to turn to agencies to fill the holes.
“You see people chasing dollars,” Staub said. “If they have the flexibility to pick and go somewhere else and live for a week, or months, or whatever, and make more money, that’s very tempting. I think every health care system experiences that.”
Nearly 70% of Florida hospitals anticipate a severe staff shortage in the next week, according to the Florida Hospital Association.
In Oregon, Governor Kate Brown announced Tuesday that state employees must be fully vaccinated by October 18 or six weeks after a COVID-19 vaccine receives full federal approval, whichever comes later. Her office plans to announce statewide indoor mask requirements on Wednesday.
“Oregon is facing a sharp rise in coronavirus hospitalizations — overwhelmingly made up of unvaccinated individuals — that are rapidly outpacing the darkest days of our winter spell,” Brown said. “When our hospitals are full, there will be no place for more patients who need care.”
Texas Governor Greg Abbott on Monday directed state officials to use staffing agencies to find additional medical staff from outside state borders as the delta variable overwhelms existing staffing resources. He also sent a letter to the Texas Hospital Association asking hospitals to voluntarily postpone all elective medical procedures.
Parts of Europe have so far avoided a similar hospital crisis, despite the wide spread of the delta variant with the help of vaccines.
The UK on Monday had more than 5,900 COVID-19 patients in hospitals, but the latest increase did not overwhelm medical centres. As of Tuesday, the government said 75% of adults had been fully vaccinated.
The same is true in Italy, where summer infections have not resulted in any rise in hospital admissions, intensive care admissions or deaths. About 3,200 people in the country of 60 million were hospitalized on Tuesday in regular wards or intensive care units, according to Health Ministry figures.
Italian health authorities, which advise the government on the pandemic, attribute the relatively contained hospital numbers to the country’s vaccination campaign, which has vaccinated 64.5% of Italians aged 12 or older.
The average number of new coronavirus infections in the United States is more than 116,000 a day plus about 50,000 hospitalizations, levels not seen since the winter wave. Unlike other points in the pandemic, hospitals now have more non-COVID patients for everything from car accidents to surgeries that have been postponed during the outbreak.
This has put an even greater burden on nurses who are already exhausted after dealing with constant death among patients and sickness in their ranks.
“Through the anecdotal, I see more and more nurses saying, ‘I’m leaving, I’m done,'” said Gerard Brogan, director of nursing practice with the National Nurses Association, an umbrella organization for nurses’ unions across the United States. “.
Hawaii sees more new cases of the virus every day than ever before.
Nurse Patrick Switzer said that in the emergency department at a Honolulu hospital, patients had to wait for beds for more than 24 hours on a stretcher in a section closed with curtains because there weren’t enough staff to open more beds.
“Someone who has been sitting in the emergency room for 30 hours is a miserable person,” he said.
He described being “in this constant state of anxiety, knowing that you don’t have the tools you need to care for your patients because we’re so exhausted.”
Hospital admissions for COVID-19 have now surpassed the previous worst increase in the pandemic in Florida, with no signs of stopping, hitting a record 13,600 on Monday, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. More than 2,800 intensive care units are required. At the height of the summer wave last year, there were more than 10,170 hospitalizations due to the COVID-19 virus.
At Westside Regional Medical Center in Plantation, Florida, the number of COVID-19 patients has doubled each week over the past month, dwarfing the number of staff already under-supplied, said Benny Cesar, who handles admissions there.
The hospital has diverted overflow areas to accommodate the increase in admissions. Some employees have contracted COVID-19.
“It’s hard,” Cesar said. “We’re tired. I just want this thing to end.”