Hospitals begin to emerge from latest COVID-19 surge – 102.3 KRMG
As omicron counts plummet at Denver Health, Dr. Anuj Mehta recalls the scene from 1980 comedy “The Blues Brothers” when John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd exit a wrecked car after a police chase.
Suddenly, all the doors come off the hinges, the front wheels fall off, and smoke billows from the engine.
“And that’s my fear,” said Mehta, a pulmonary and intensive care physician. “I fear that as soon as we stop, everything will fall apart.”
In the United States, the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 has fallen more than 28% in the past three weeks to about 105,000 on average, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But the ebb from the omicron push has left in its wake postponed surgeries, exhausted staff members and uncertainty over whether this is the last big wave or another one lies ahead.
“What we want to see is that the omicron surge continues to subside, that we don’t see another concerning variant emerge, that we start to come out the other side,” said Dr. Chris Beyrer, epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
But he added: “We’ve been wrong twice already, with delta and omicron. So that adds to people’s anxiety and uncertainty and a feeling like, ‘When does this end?
Another reason for anxiety: hospitalizations related to COVID-19 are not even that low. They are at a level seen in January 2021, in the middle of last winter’s surge.
Hospitals weathered the omicron surge with staff that were already depleted after many staff left the profession. Other healthcare workers fell ill en masse. In some hospitals, clerical staff were assigned to help make beds.
Now many hospitals are still in crisis mode as they scramble to reschedule people whose hip replacements and even cancer and brain surgeries were postponed during the omicron crisis to free up gas. space and nurses to care for COVID-19 patients.
Even in North Dakota, which has consistently ranked among the top in the number of COVID-19 cases relative to population, hospitals have seen a dramatic drop in the number of patients infected with the virus. However, executives at Dakota-based Sanford Health said their hospitals were still full.
“We’ve been running hard for a few years now, but I’m not sure I feel relief,” said Dr. Doug Griffin, vice president and physician at Sanford in Fargo, North Dakota. “Most of our caregivers are providing care for other patients. We still have very, very sick people coming in for all kinds of reasons.”
At the Cleveland Clinic’s 13 Ohio hospitals, the number of COVID-19 patients fell to 280, from a record pandemic high of around 1,200. Surgeries began to be delayed in late December and the situation just getting back to normal, said Dr. Raed Dweik, head of the system’s respiratory institute.
The hope, he said, is that this is the last big push and that hospitals can start to catch up.
“We had our hopes dashed before that. “Oh, it’s the end of the pandemic and this virus,” he said. “Every time we say something like that, we get laughed at and it comes up with a new twist.”
Dr. Craig Spencer, an ER doctor from New York City, tweeted a week ago: “Just worked 12 hours in the ER on a busy Monday and haven’t had a single Covid patient. Not one. It is not finished. But it’s much better than just a few weeks ago.
Spencer said Tuesday he had another COVID-free shift overnight Friday and Saturday.
“I’m getting a bit of a random sample of course, but compared to a month ago it’s a drastic change, which is great,” he said.
Mary Turner, who is president of the Minnesota Nurses Association and works as a COVID-19 critical care nurse, said patient numbers remain high because of “all the other people who didn’t go to their appointments or to their follow-ups which arrive with all the other conditions.
If there’s any relief, Turner said, it’s being able to walk into a patient’s room without having to wear full protective gear.
“It’s like heaven” to walk in and put on a pair of gloves, she said.
In Michigan’s eight-hospital Beaumont Health System, the number of COVID-19 patients fell to 250 on Tuesday, down from the omicron peak of 851 last month.
Dr Justin Skrzynski, an internal medicine doctor who runs a COVID-19 floor at Beaumont Health Hospital in Royal Oak, said patient care is back to normal at around 90% and he finds reason to be optimistic, noting that the combination of vaccinations and immunity to infection should provide some protection.
But he noted: “I think there needs to be a big awareness of the extent of the degeneration in health care.”
He said nurses who suffered abuse from patients had left the profession in large numbers. Costs have increased.
“Right now we’re doing so much to financially support the health care system,” he said, noting the billions of dollars the federal stimulus package has provided to help hospitals deal with the pandemic. “Unfortunately, once the dust settles, I think all of these things will happen.
Hollingsworth reported from Mission, Kansas, and Kolpack from Fargo, ND
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