BY: CHASE SCHERR, CHASE.SCHERR@GO.MNSTATE.EDU
All across the United States, hospitals are facing a crisis. As of September 25, more than 90,000 ICU beds are currently being filled by patients with or without COVID-19, according to data from the US Department of Health and Human Services. And unfortunately, some of these hospitals are unable to take care of these patients and have to transport them elsewhere.
In Fargo, Sanford has had this problem erupt within their intensive care units. Currently, Sanford Health’s COVID unit, which is in the downtown Fargo location, has over 60 patients, VP Medical Officer Dr. Doug Griffin says.
“We have around 35 active COVID patients who are on ventilators,” Griffin said. “We have an additional 25 patients that are still recovering from COVID but no longer needing the isolation.”
Dr. Griffin says that these numbers have increased rapidly since the emergence of the Delta variant. The state of North Dakota has had over 159 hospitalized for COVID since September of this year. 143 of those patients were unvaccinated.
So far, hospitals have been overwhelmed with the limited number of beds for taking care of patients. In some instances, hospitals are forced to relocate these patients, whether they have COVID or not, to other states for treatment.
“The issue around that is there are metro areas who taking care of upwards more patients than they can even handle,” said Griffin. “And that is something that Sanford has had problems with too in the past.”
In some states, the limited number of beds has affected the ways in which hospitals operate. For example, hospitals in states like California and Texas have been running out of ICU beds for the past 2 months.
Another concern that the Center of Disease Control has been facing is getting children vaccinated. Sanford’s pediatric has had several cases revolving around children who have been hospitalized for COVID-19, though nothing has been severe.
“[The pediatrics] are seeing more kids test positive for COVID,” Griffin said. “We are the largest children’s hospital in the state but with all of the other things going on, a few COVID cases could be very challenging for us.”
Although patients are experiencing their hardships, there are doctors and nurses that are continuing to work day and night in order to treat these patients.
“We have been to provide the resources for them, but they are fatigued, for sure,” Griffin said.
Some hospital staff have gone as far as to quit with being so overworked. The problem is that the pandemic has been continuing for the past year and a half and so many doctors and nurses are burnt out by all of the new COVID patients that enter their facility.
Because of this, intensive care units are in a bind with low staff numbers and resiliency. Chief Medical Officer Mitchell Wolfe of the CDC made a statement regarding the hospital staff shortages.
“We are facing a medical crisis like no other,” said Wolfe. “I urge every American to please get the shot immediately. Our doctors cannot attend to everyone that is risking their health during these turbulent times.”
Sanford has not had a staff shortage as of September, but that does not mean that doctors and nurses don’t work around the clock.
“Even with all of the extensive shifts that our staff put in, that just is not enough,” said Griffin. “There is only so much that they can do to provide care for everyone and it is a lot of pressure.”
Generally, the CDC is in a race against time, pleading with the public to get vaccinated as soon as possible before this pandemic can escalate.
“You have every right to do what you will with your bodies,” said Wolfe. “But you certainly don’t have the right to endanger everyone else, the people you love, the people that you care for don’t deserve to be put in this mess.”