The Pandemic Continues in 2021
2021 is being associated with countless hopes and optimism, but the situation of the pandemic hasn’t improved. Instead, 2021 brought new virus strings, and one can see that COVID-19 is not going anywhere soon. The conditions of hospitals across the country are worsening as officials and hospitals try to take desperate measures to prevent the national health care system from collapsing under the bulging weight of increasing corona patients.
The shortage of crucial medical equipment such as ventilators, oxygen masks, hospital beds, and medical staff is worsening the healthcare conditions. There is an increasing shortage of ICU beds, making it difficult to treat critical patients. The lack of hospital space and resources is hindering healthcare professionals from helping patients. It has added pressure on the limited medical staff as they are highly prone to get infected despite strict measures taken to follow the SOPs.
Shortage of Medical Staff in Hospitals
Almost 60% of the hospitals in the country have been facing a critical shortage of medical staff, said the Department of Health and Human Services. There is an expected shortage of an additional 22% of crucial staff in hospitals in the coming times. In some of the states, the situation is even worse. Reportedly more than one-third of the hospitals have reported critical staffing shortages.
In North Dakota, more than half of the state hospitals are facing a serious staff shortage. Six states, Missouri, New Mexico, Wisconsin, Kansas, Arkansas, and Oklahoma, have had a serious problem of staff shortage where 30% of the hospitals reported an extreme lack of staff and the piling number of patients. The US Virgin Islands are also extremely overwhelmed, with two of the island’s main hospitals overflowing with patients and under capacity for staff.
Officials had already forecasted the possibility of hospitals and medical treatments becoming scarce due to the rise in the spread of the virus, which has pushed health care workers and hospitals to their breaking point. State officials in each state have asked hospitals and clinics to draw a crisis management plan to meet adequate standards of health care. The worst-case scenario would force therapies, supplies, medical units, beds, and other crucial medical facilities to be rationed.
Who will be Treated on Priority?
When it comes to deciding which patient is eligible for ICU treatment or ventilator, patients will be chosen based on the rate of survival they hold. In short, patients that are more likely to survive will receive treatment on priority.
According to a state memo issued in June 2020, hospitals will be appointed with a triage officer who will make the decisions to benefit the majority of the patients. However, these decisions may not always be the best for patients.
Moreover, all critically ill patients’ health status is re-evaluated regularly by the triage team, which ensures the best possible use of all the limited resources. If an ICU bed or a ventilator is not available to a patient at first, the team keeps the patients in the pipelines and provides the support later if available.
In the face of the recent events with political tension and the rise of the virus which has dampened the state of the country, the Director of the California Department of Public Health, Dr. Tomas Aragon, issued a strict order of postponing all but life-saving and essential surgeries in Southern California and San Joaquin Valley.
Which Surgeries will be Entertained?
Surgeries that will be postponed include carpal tunnel release and other non-urgent spine surgeries, while serious cancer and heart surgeries will not be affected. The counties affected by this order of surgeries include San Benito, Kern, Madera, Los Angeles, San Joaquin, and Stanislaus. In certain cities, the situation is bad such that a plea for additional staffing has been sent through California’s mutual aid system.
Some paramedics in the Bay Area and other parts of the state are being sent to Southern California to help. Two paramedics from Santa Clara County have already been dispatched to some hospitals in LA County and Bakersfield. Some paramedics in the Bay Area are being sent to the southern half of the state to help. Two paramedics from the Mountain View Fire Department in Santa Clara County have been dispatched to hospitals in Bakersfield and L.A. County.
What do Crisis Standards of Care Mean?
The crisis order portends a time when some hospitals are so overwhelmed with patients that they have no choice but to declare to local public health departments and state that they are operating under crisis standards of care.
The debate all across California over the importance and value of establishing minimum staffing levels in hospitals and clinics isn’t about creating a numerical definition of medical care. While data and studies have shown that nursing burnout can happen due to heavy patient workload, there is no significant proof to support it.
There is no doubt that there is an increasing shortage of medical staff while the staff working is under tremendous stress. Let’s see if 2021 and the issuance of vaccines will bring a surge of new hope in 2021.