The escalating COVID-19 pandemic under the highly contagious omicron variant has had nurses calling out sick, forcing hospitals to limit their capacity and leaving beds empty because there is not enough staff to deliver care.
Mass General Brigham Hospital was forced to keep 83 beds empty Friday because of staffing shortages; University Hospitals in Ohio cut 16% of its intensive-care capacity; and Dallas’ Parkland Health & Hospital System had to shut off 30 of its 900 beds with more than 500 staff out sick in one day recently, The Wall Street Journal reported.
“It’s definitely a brutal situation,” Parkland’s Dr. Joseph Chang told the paper.
Hospitals short staffed have decisions to make and limiting capacity is a last-resort to make sure those most in need of care have access to the staffing required to treat them.
“We’re living in a world of trade-offs,” Mass General Brigham’s chief operating officer Ron Walls told the Journal, noting he has had 2,000 out of 82,000 employees test positive for COVID-19 in a 10-day span over the holidays.
From New Year’s Day to Jan. 6, there were 1,285 hospitals nationwide reporting critical staffing shortages, according to the Journal.
The Association of American Medical Colleges have 5% to 7% of staff sick with COVID-19, chief healthcare officer Dr. Janis Orlowski told the Journal.
“Those are big numbers when you’re talking about staffing a hospital,” Orlowski said.
Those figures are exacerbated by staffing shortages that were already existing as competition has led to traveling-nurse agencies offering temp nurses for stress hospital systems for higher pay, according to the report.
There have been 14 states and Washington, D.C., reporting record numbers of COVID-19 hospitalizations under the contagious omicron variant, HHS reported.
A December change in the COVID-19 quarantine guidelines have eased some strain, permitting infected staffers to return in five days after infection instead of 10, but “patients keep coming,” Dr. Paul Hinchey of Ohio’s University Hospitals, told the Journal.