COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Ohio’s health system is feeling the effects of the recent climb in COVID-19 cases. Hospitals explain that they are not having issues with enough beds or equipment. Instead, they’re having an issue with staffing.
Dr. Bruce Vanderhoof is the Chief Medical Officer for the Ohio Department of Health and explained that providers are living in the areas where community spread is being reported. Many employees have to quarantine. In some cases, workers are becoming infected and are turned are away from work for weeks at a time. This causes a strain on hospitals to fill those roles.
“Every county in the state is feeling the brunt of rising COVID-19 hospitalizations and those hospitals are staffed by nurses, physicians, and other professionals who live in those communities,” Vanderhoof noted.
Ohio’s top medical experts are pleading with Ohioans to step up and protect themselves and the community’s caregivers.
“I do see a lot of people in masks at stores,” said Dr. Andrew Thomas, chief clinical officer at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. “What I’m hearing from public health colleagues and physicians in the state is the spread of this is happening in personal homes, parties in yards and basements.”
The public has concerns that a new stay-at-home order could be issued again. Physicians like Thomas do not see the need.
“I think a stay-at-home order that would close all businesses or manufactures, in my mind, doesn’t seem to make sense this time around because it’s much more about personal behavior,” Thomas said.
Rural medical facilities like Fairfield Medical Center (FMC) have seen drastic increases in their COVID-19 cases.
“We had our highest percentage positive for the Covid tests we do here last week at over 19% positive tests which is huge,” said Infectious Disease doctor Andrew Dagg-Murry.
Dagg-Murry explained FMC concurred that space is not a problem, because a new section of the facility was opened to treat more COVID-19 patients. Instead, their issue is keeping the hospital staffed.
“Over the last few months, we’ve had some positions that have been hard to fill and so we’re feeling that a bit and we’re starting to bring some nurses who may have been irked in a management position back to the floor,” Dagg-Murry said. “We’re also trying to float people from outpatient hospitals where they may not be busy to the hospital if we need to. Beds are also tight, but we did open a secondary covid unit the past week, but it’s the staffing of the beds that the problem.”
Craig Cairns is the Vice President of Medial Affairs at Licking County Memorial Hospital in Newark. He noted they have a full intensive care unit (ICU) and COVID unit and can accommodate more people if expansion is needed. His concern is having a place for those to recover long term.
“The one thing we would like is a place to have patients ready for discharge for two weeks,” Cairns said. “If there was some place that could help us with that, of course, none of the extended care facilities will take covid positive patients.”
FMC has the same issue.
“The other problem is once we have a positive, there are no nursing homes that will take a patient because they’re all full, so that becomes a log jam when you have patients that are too sick to go home but can’t get to a nursing home.”
Vanderhoof wants to remind the community this is why hand washing, social distancing and mask wearing is encouraged. He hopes people continue to apply these practices because they work.
“The message that this is really important and we know from the scientific lot that it makes a difference and we know from our experience it makes a difference and so we’re asking for everyone’s help and that where we want to begin,” Vanderhoof said.