Nearly 1 in 4 U.S. Hospitals Have ‘Critical Staffing Shortages’
The shortage is due to the massive surge of COVID-19 Omicron cases as well as patients seeking medical care for other non-COVID-related reasons.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is reporting that nearly 1,200 out of 5,000 hospitals are reporting that they are currently experiencing critical staff shortages.
That’s 24% of hospitals, reports CNN.
The shortages are due to the massive surge of COVID-19 Omicron cases as well as patients seeking medical treatment for other non-COVID-related reasons.
“There is such a community spread, we are also finding that our staff are getting COVID from the community. So, we are facing a real labor crunch currently,” Allina Health Seniro Vice President and Chief Medical Executive Dr. Hsieng Su told MPR.
Dr. Jeremy Faust, an emergency physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, told ABC News that “We have seen an incredible proliferation of the virus in hospitals, such that we went from a place where virtually no county in the country was at risk of exceeding its capacity to well over half are now. I don’t like to make predictions, but things could get very bad in the coming couple of weeks.”
Although it appears that the Omicron variant is less severe than previous COVID-19 variants, it is much more transmissible. The volume of Omicron cases coupled with patients coming to the hospital for medical treatment for other illnesses and injuries is causing the surge and staff shortages.
Most of the patients requiring intensive care for Omicron are still unvaccinated.
“When an unvaccinated person gets admitted to the hospital, they are going to be sicker and require more care and take up more resources,” Faust told ABC News.
Additionally, even if a patient is admitted for other reasons besides COVID, if they test positive for Omicron, staff must take other precautions, which adds to their burden. On Friday, New York state officials said 42% of COVID patients were admitted to the hospital for non-COVID reasons.
To fill the gaps in staffing, Allina is hiring contract workers and giving bonuses and other incentives to encourage employees to work longer, reports MPR.
In Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Georgia and West Virginia, the National Guard has been called in to plug the gaps.