COVID-19 patients a reason for stress on health care systems, Triangle doctors say


RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – When a hospital says it’s running out of room, many tend to think it is literally low on beds.

It’s more than just that. A hospital could also be short on staff or equipment. That could mean beds may be empty, but they can’t be made available.

COVID-19 patients are a big reason for that.

“The hospital patients that tend to get admitted are a lot sicker, and so they require a lot more staff than we’re used to to take care of other types of patients that are admitted to the hospital. In combination with national trends of staffing shortages has made it difficult when we have surges to try to manage it all,” said Dr. Aida Ross with Duke Regional Hospital.

Duke Health and UNC Health join other hospital systems in what is a constant juggling act.

“If you have an ICU patient, you need to have them in an ICU facility with an ICU bed and an ICU nurse, and sometimes we just don’t have staff,” said Dr. Linda Butler with UNC Rex Healthcare.

Butler added that those issues are happening at UNC Health’s rural hospitals where COVID-19 patients sometimes have to be moved to another facility.

“If you have an intubated patient waiting in an emergency department, that is probably not the best place for them to be,” Butler said. “If you have an ICU bed somewhere else, so that’s why the transfers happen.”

Patients aren’t the only ones being moved around. The same goes for those taking care of them, with updates coming two and three times a day.

“How do we take our existing staff and utilize them to the highest of their scope and move people around based on where we have our needs?” Ross asked.

Luckily, both hospital systems said they are not having to ration supplies as hospitals in others states have done. Doctors remind people that the stress that’s led up to the issues though could be lessened by more people getting vaccinated.

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