Hospitals are struggling to hold on to nurses and other professionals, staff are traumatized and the influx of patients feels like it’s coming out of a fire hose, doctors say.
The Covid-19 pandemic, entering its third year with 800,000 people dead in the US alone, could damage the health industry for years to come, they predict.
“It feels like you are drinking from a fire hose with no way to control that flow,” Dr. John Hick, an emergency physician at Hennepin Healthcare in Minnesota, told reporters Tuesday.
“I have been practicing for 25 years in the emergency department and every shift I am working these days is like the worst shift in my career.”
And many patients are hostile, making matters worse, said Dr. Jessi Gold, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Washington University in St. Louis. “Now people are yelling at you and telling you that you don’t know anything,” she said. “So it’s like a fire hose in a setting that hates you.”
It got so bad that hospital leaders in Minnesota took out a full-page newspaper ad this week. “We’re heartbroken. We’re overwhelmed,” it read. “Our emergency departments are overfilled, and we have patients in every bed in our hospitals.”
Dr. Rahul Koranne, president and chief executive officer of the Minnesota Hospital Association, said the pandemic hit when hospitals and public health departments were already thin.
“We were already short thousands of workers before the first Covid case showed up, and now the health care workers are exhausted. They are retiring. They are resigning,” Koranne told CNN.
“They are going to other industries. That is limiting our care capacity, and so we’re telling our community that at this point if you had a motor vehicle accident or had a heart attack our care capacity is limited. It’s really a crisis.”
A crisis in care
A CNN analysis of Johns Hopkins University data shows about one in five patients in intensive care units around the country are being treated for Covid-19. Close to 67,000 people are in the hospital with Covid-19 and US Health and Human Services Department data shows a 42% increase in hospitalizations over the past month.