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Some U.S. hospitals forced to ration care amid staffing shortages, COVID-19 surge By Reuters


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO A nurse is seen in the COVID-19 patients’ room as part of a tour at SSM Health St. Anthony Hospital’s ICU. This was during the COVID-19 pandemic that hit Oklahoma City (U.S.A.), August 24, 2021. REUTERS/Nick Oxford


By Julia Harte and Sharon Bernstein

(Reuters) – Surges in coronavirus cases in several U.S. states this week, along with staffing and equipment shortages, are exacting a mounting toll on hospitals and their workers even as the number of new admissions nationwide ebbs, leading to warnings at some facilities that care would be rationed.

Montana, Alaska and Wisconsin saw the highest increases in COVID-19 hospitalizations over the past week. This is according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) latest report on September 10.

According to an open letter by Providence Alaska Medical Center’s medical executive committee, this week, Alaska’s biggest hospital cannot provide the necessary life-saving care due to the heavy influx of COVID-19 patients.

The letter stated that Providence may no longer have the capacity to provide specialty care for patients who are either a trauma surgeon or a cardiologist. There are currently no more beds available.

Some hospital employees have fled to other jobs, Nancy Foster from the American Hospital Association said. Foster was vice president of quality control and patient safety.

Foster stated that hospitals are running out of oxygen because of distribution problems and other factors. This is making it difficult for patients to breathe.

She said that Friday’s webinar was held by the hospital association to educate its members about ways to conserve oxygen. It was an attempt to deal with a 20% increase in hospital demand.

Foster stated that “there is a shortage in drivers qualified to transport oxygen” and “there are a lack of tanks required to transport it.”

Foster stated that there were some rare cases of breakthroughs among those who had been vaccinated. However, most hospitalizations occurred among unvaccinated.


On Sept. 16, 1,855 Americans died of COVID-19 and 144,844 new cases were reported, according to a Reuters analysis of state and county data. These trendlines are increasing across the United States since their lowest point in July and June of this year.

The number of new hospital admissions is still rising in some mostly rural states and Midwestern countries, even though the overall COVID-19 patient count in hospitals in America has fallen to around 10,685 per day on September 14, after peaking in late August at about 13,028. According to U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s latest data, this trendline was not affected by the pandemic.

“Despite our hospital being ground zero in Kentucky for the onset of the pandemic 18 months ago, this week we are being hit with a COVID surge like never before since the onset of the pandemic,” said Dr. Stephen Toadvine, chief executive officer at Harrison Memorial Hospital, in a statement posted on the Kentucky state website. According to Toadvine, patients seeking urgent care at Kentucky hospitals are experiencing an unprecedented number of COVID-19 cases.

Andy Beshear, Kentucky governor, stated on Thursday that there would be a shortage of monoclonal antibody treatment for COVID-19 in the commonwealth. The federal government recently declared a nationwide shortage.

According to Dr. Jeff Pothof, COVID-19 has increased by fourfold in hospitals managed by UW Health.

He said that emergency rooms have become so crowded, doctors must seek out rooms in other facilities to accommodate their patients. This trend is also being observed in Florida and other states.

In a Thursday video, Dr Shelly Harkins (chief medical officer, president, St. Peter’s Health, Helena, Montana) stated that “for the first time in our career, we’re at a point where not all patients in need will receive the care we might want to give.”

Jim Kaufman is the West Virginia Hospital Association’s president and chief executive officer. This week, COVID-19 hospitalizations in West Virginia have risen from 852 Monday through 922 Friday.

Due to severe staffing shortages at state hospitals, patients are being treated less frequently and non-emergency services delayed.

Kaufman stated that patients are being sent to bigger hospitals by smaller hospitals. The number of Oklahoma hospitalizations fell 11% in the week that ended September 10, compared to the previous week. However, 35% state hospitals report staffing shortfalls according the CDC.