‘They are tired’: Hospitals facing stress on staff, as COVID hospitalization rates rise in Ohio


CLEVELAND (WJW) — The delta variant is a real concern to Northeast Ohio’s healthcare systems if the numbers continue to trend in the same direction as other states seeing overwhelming hospitalizations.

“We watch the models carefully, we’re planning you know for a peak in six weeks or so but we’ll certainly be prepared for whatever happens,” said Dr. Robyn Strosaker, Chief Operating Officer at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center. “I mean, we’ve got robust surge plans to assure that we can safely care for our community members but of course we would like to see people stay healthy, we would like to see those numbers go back down.”

Healthcare workers are concerned that while we’re seeing improvements in vaccinations rates, there are simply too many unvaccinated or without immunity to keep these variant waves under control.

Officials say statewide about 1 of every 10 patients in hospitals have COVID, while nearly 1 of every 6 patients in the ICU are battling the virus.

“We have been seeing higher capacity than usual all summer at all of our facilities and it hasn’t necessarily been COVID cases. We think a lot of people delayed care during the pandemic and we’ve just been full with a lot of non-COVID cases. Over the past 10-14 days though we really have seen the COVID numbers go up in our hospitals as well though, all of our hospitals across the system,” said Strosaker.

The state is divided into three hospital zones with zone one including northeast Ohio. 

“So we have about half the beds and half the both regular nursing floor and ICU beds in Zone one of the state and we’re at about 75 to 80% occupancy at this point but it’s climbing every day,” said Dr. Robert Wylie, Chief Medical Operations Officer of the Cleveland Clinic who also heads up Zone 1.

Low staffing is also stressing the system.

“We all started losing staff as people started to whither a little bit after the tedium of a year of half of infection and dealing with these very, very sick patients in the ICU and watching fatalities at a very rapid rate compared to our usual number of patients in the hospital,” said Wyllie

Strosaker says they do have adequate caregivers right now for COVID and non-COVID patients, but agrees the pandemic is taking a toll.

“I think it’s important to understand that our staff members, they are tired,” she said. “They’ve been at this for a very long time and they are very tired and that is real.”  

Strosaker says it’s a bit premature to make any predictions at the moment as to whether they would need to cancel elective surgeries. But in other parts of the state, we have seen that have to happen at some hospitals.

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