COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Ohio health officials on Tuesday revealed 585 new COVID-19 hospitalizations in the last 24 hours, the largest single-day increase since the pandemic began.
With capacity becoming an even greater concern, rural hospitals find their state a little more critical as healthcare systems consider contingency plans.
“You know, I would have to say it’s shocking,” says Dr. Kirk Tucker of Adena Health Systems, about the Zone 2 hospitalizations graph he looks at every evening. “To look at that graph and see it in front of you and realize what that means for shortages of nursing staff, and people that are overworked and just trying to put in every shift they can to help people, I’m shocked.”
While healthcare systems across the state have a variety of contingency plans, at Adena Health, they have them broken up in to four categories.
“We lay those out as Plan A, which is current operations, B, C, and D,” Tucker explains.
Plan D is what they call ‘Code Yellow’ — the worst-case scenario.
“A ‘Code Yellow’ requires all available healthcare personnel to report to duty, and they are not released until incident command says you can begin to rotate them out,” Tucker described.
Less critical situations may call for opening up more beds or setting up additional COVID facilities, decisions that, even at large healthcare systems like OhioHealth, have a major trickle-down effect.
“As each brings us more COVID patients in the hospital, eventually, something has to give and it may have to be something that’s made really on the capacity at that time,” says Dr. Joseph Gastaldo, an infectious disease expert with OhioHealth.
That includes scaling back on elective procedures.
“We look at the capacity of beds in the hospital, the capacity of beds specifically for surgeries that require a few hospital stays,” Gastaldo said. “If it gets to the point that we have limited beds, then a trigger that may have to be pulled is the cutting back or scaling back of surgeries that are requiring an overnight or few day hospital stay.”
As capacity grows, transferring patients between systems could also become more likely, and more difficult. Not just for the overwhelmed hospitals, but the patients themselves.
“COVID is scary, all hospitals have no visitation policies, and if you have to go a couple hours away to be transferred to a hospital, that’s another layer of emotional turmoil and anxiety for patients,” Gastaldo said. “You can’t see your family, you’re fearful of what’s going on, you’re fearful of the unknown. That is a really anxiety- provoking situation for patients.”
Both Adena Health Systems and OhioHealth said their contingency plans are fluid, and can be turned on or off as available hospitalization capacity requires.