Staffing shortages have critically impacted more than a quarter of all U.S. hospitals in the last few weeks, while COVID hospitalizations hit record highs.
There are just over 6000 accredited hospitals in the United States, with just over 900,000 patient beds between them. That number includes all beds – burn wards, maternity centers, surgical intensive care, everything. Currently, over 141,000 beds are occupied by people suffering from severe COVID-19, according to the latest update from the CDC. That’s more than one out of every seven beds filled with a COVID-19 patient.
And the available number of beds are being reduced by the staffing shortages. In many states, hospitals are canceling any non-emergent care. In some, they are running out of ambulances because patients are so backed up that emergency patients can’t be transferred from the ambulance into a hospital.
Virginia and Maryland have both declared 30-day States of Emergency, allowing hospitals to exceed their capacities and use expanded measures to fill staffing shortages, such as offer bonuses and recruit out-of-state providers. In New Jersey, ICU patients on breathing assist have doubled since Christmas. They too will probably soon declare a State of Emergency.
The staffing shortages are due to several factors – health care workers who have been exposed or caught COVID-19, those who have been terminated for risking patient health by refusing their own vaccinations, and simple burnout after nearly two years of this.
“Given how much infection there is, our hospitals really are at the brink right now,” Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health, told CNN on Sunday.
“The health care system is not just designed to take care of people with Covid … it’s designed to take care of kids with appendicitis and people who have heart attacks and get into car accidents,” Jha said.
“And all of that is going to be much, much more difficult because we have a large proportion of the population that is not vaccinated…. a large pool of people who as they get infected will end up really straining the resources we have in the hospitals today.”