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‘I’ve never felt so helpless’: Ohio hospitals struggling amid Delta variant surge

Thousands are hospitalized with the coronavirus nationwide.
Thousands are hospitalized with the coronavirus nationwide.(Pixabay)
Published: Sep. 16, 2021 at 12:33 PM EDT
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COLUMBUS, Ohio (WTVG) - The Ohio Department of Health held a virtual press conference Thursday, sounding the alarm on the state of Ohio’s hospitals.

ODH Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff said hospitals are struggling to provide proper care as many are reaching full capacity, coupled with a staffing shortage.

“None of us want our hospitals to get so busy there isn’t a bed for you if you need it,” said Vanderhoff.

Dr. Brian Kaminski, Vice President of Quality and Patient Safety with ProMedica, called it a “perfect storm.”

According to ODH, 1 in 6 people hospitalized in Ohio has COVID-19. While COVID hospitalizations are overwhelming hospitals, it’s creating a domino effect on other patients.

“Our daily [COVID] hospitalizations are about triple what they were last year and the reason is simple,” Vanderhoff said. “The Delta variant is aggressively seeking out anyone who lacks immunity and is making many of them very sick.”

The public health officials are asking the public to exhaust other healthcare options before opting for the hospital. Dr. Vanderhoff said you shouldn’t hesitate to call 911 if you have a serious medical issue but those with mild symptoms should consider telehealth options, visiting primary care physicians, clinics in pharmacies, and urgent care facilities first.

Ohio’s top medical official said the best thing Ohioans can do to alleviate the pressure on hospitals is to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and take a layered approach to mitigation efforts as well, like masking and social distancing.

The strain on hospitals was demonstrated in Lucas County earlier this week when all county hospitals were temporarily on EMS Bypass. It meant the area hospitals weren’t able to accept EMS transport patients.

Dr. Kaminski said he’s never experienced that in the 22 years he worked as an emergency physician. He said it wasn’t a good position to be in, but the hospitals recovered pretty quickly.

He said the mood at ProMedica hospitals among healthcare workers is somber and that workers are stressed, calling the pandemic a rollercoaster. Hospitals are so overwhelmed, managers and directors are now working on the front lines.

Dr. Michael Canady, the Chief Executive Officer at Holzer Health System, said he’s been in healthcare for over 40 years and has never felt so helpless.

“My biggest fear ... I’m afraid that if someone comes in with a medical or surgical problem that we would normally be able to take care of, we won’t have the ability to do that simply from staffing and beds,” said Canady. “I don’t know if the public knows how much we’re really struggling with this and trying to do the best we can, but my fear has become realized.”

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