Hospitals Deluged as Vaccine Still Months Away for Most in U.S.

January 4, 2021 by Christen Aldrich

Filed under COVID-19 for Employers, COVID-19 for the Workforce, Engagement & Morale

Last modified January 19, 2021

According to this recent article from Bloomberg, COVID-19 has hospitalized almost twice as many Americans as at any point in the pandemic, leaving medical providers on the brink of crisis with vaccine doses months away for most people. As access to critical care declines in intensive-care units, sustained patient loads threaten to accelerate deaths.

“The moment when the percent of beds occupied by Covid patients increases, that really drives a lot of the staffing issues,” said Pinar Karaca-Mandic, a health-care risk management professor at the University of Minnesota. “It exposed a lot of the fragmentation in our health-care system.” According to Covid Tracking Project data, more than 115,000 Americans are currently hospitalized with coronavirus – a number that has risen alongside daily cases since early October. California, Texas, and New York account for more than a quarter of the national total.

The persistence of this COVID crisis has worn down the healthcare workforce. While much of the public has moved on from the April period when they stayed home and clapped for medical workers, “for many of our providers, that workload, those 13-hour days haven’t really stopped,” said Andy Brailo, chief customer officer at Premier Inc., which provides purchasing, technology and consulting services to more than 4,000 hospitals. And as hospitals continue to fill up, some people who might normally have been admitted for COVID-19 or other conditions get sent home instead, said Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health.

The persistent strain on hospital capacity could lead to worse outcomes, particularly for people whose conditions are borderline — not so critical that they must be admitted immediately, but not so mild that they wouldn’t benefit from hospital care. “Every bit of data suggests that a lot of those people aren’t going to do as well,” Jha said. They may get better, or return to the hospital sicker later on, or even die at home. “When you get into crowding situations, when emergency departments get overwhelmed or when hospitals get really full, everybody tends to do a little bit worse.”

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