Nebraska Hospital CEOs Warn COVID Could Overwhelm System


OMAHA, Neb. (AP) – Nebraska hospital officials warned on Monday that the long hours of waiting for critically ill patients at small hospitals are already lasting until they can be transferred to a larger hospital will only be ‘worsen if virus cases continue to increase at their current rate.

Hospitals are already struggling to find enough beds and staff to treat patients, and virus hospitalizations are expected to increase dramatically over the next two weeks as the highly contagious omicron variant of the virus spreads. Additionally, many doctors and nurses are currently sick with COVID-19 or need to be quarantined due to exposure to the virus.

“We could see a doubling of COVID hospitalizations in Nebraska over the next two to three weeks. This alone would overwhelm our health care system. But we also face some of the worst staffing issues we’ve encountered during COVID, ”said Jeremy Nordquist, president of the Nebraska Hospital Association.

The number of people hospitalized with the virus in the state reached 602 on Monday. This is still lower than the recent high of 637 reached on December 13, but it has been rising steadily since Christmas Day. The seven-day moving average of daily new cases in Nebraska has skyrocketed over the past two weeks, from 540 new cases per day on Dec. 25 to 3,152 new cases per day on Saturday.

This high number of virus hospitalizations, combined with all the other patients hospitals treat, is already causing long waits in emergency rooms statewide and delays in transferring patients from small community hospitals to hospitals. larger ones that can offer specialized care. Todd Consbruck, CEO of Avera St. Anthony Hospital in O’Neill, said the sickest patients at his northeastern Nebraska hospital are waiting much longer for transfers.

“There are times when we see 4, 8, 10 hours to find a bed for someone who needs intensive care, intensive care or surgery in a larger community,” Consbruck said.

The problem is, the state’s large hospitals are too busy to accept as many transfers as before, said Josie Abboud, chief executive officer of the Methodist Hospital and the Methodist Hospital for Women in Omaha, even whether hospitals have restricted surgeries to free up resources and make more room for critically ill patients.

The state reported 17,382 cases of the virus to the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week, up from 10,682 the week before and 4,956 previously.

“You certainly hope that we don’t get to the point where we can’t provide the care that we would normally provide to our community, as that would be a tragedy for our community,” Abboud said.

The omicron variant spreads more easily than other strains of coronavirus and has already become dominant in many countries. It also more easily infects those who have been vaccinated or had already been infected with previous versions of the virus.

However, early studies show that omicron is less likely to cause serious illness than the previous delta variant, and vaccination and a booster still offer strong protection against serious illness, hospitalization, and death.

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