MIDSTATE, Pa. (WHTM) — Hospitals in Central Pennsylvania are still dealing with a surge in patients and emergency rooms quickly filling up, and the message from health systems is that things are not getting better.
According to the Hospital Association of Pennsylvania, 45% of hospitals have filled 90% or more of their inpatient beds. Sixty percent of hospitals have filled 90% of their ICU beds.
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“We’re seeing 20-, 30-, 40-year-olds, that are ending up very sick and dying,” said Erin Hammond, a registered nurse at WellSpan Chambersburg Hospital.
However, the health system, along with other hospitals, is also dealing with a surge in non-COVID patients, which means other procedures and surgeries are being postponed or cancelled.
“It’s difficult to see patients when we don’t have rooms available”, Dr. Jed Seitzinger, an emergency room physician at UPMC, said.
Another problem is long waits in the emergency room.
“”It literally is coming down to, can this person tolerate waiting four hours versus this person that can’t tolerate waiting more than an hour?” Community LifeTeam paramedic Josiah Einwechter said.
Some emergency departments, including WellSpan, are asking paramedics to divert patients to different hospitals that might have more capacity. Other, like UPMC, are forced to find makeshift beds.
“We’re going into the hallway in order to start IVS, give medications and start the treatment process,” Dr. Seitzinger said.
For most hospitals, less than 50% of inpatients are hospitalized with COVID, but it does not mean any less work. At Penn State Health, 20% of inpatients are hospitalized with the virus, but the health system said those patients take up 80% of hospital resources. Other health systems are dealing with similar pressure.
“Not only are you physically exhausted, you’re mentally exhausted and sometimes your heart hurts,” Miranda Rhoads, an ER nurse at UPMC, said.
After nearly two years, hospital staff said they are burnt out.
“The exhaustion from the last 22 months is really catching up with us,” Rhoads said.
Capacity is not the only issue; hospitals are also dealing with severe staffing shortages. According to the Hospital Association of Pennsylvania, on average, 27% of registered nurse positions providing direct patient care are vacant. That number goes up to 46% for nursing support staff.