Although COVID-19 remains in a lull, hospitals across the country are in crisis amid a towering wave of seasonal respiratory illnesses—particularly RSV in children—as well as longer-term problems, such as staffing shortages.
Pediatric beds are filling or full, people with urgent health problems are waiting hours in emergency departments, hallways, and even parking lots, and some hospitals have pitched outdoor tents, conjuring memories of the early days of the pandemic.
In one of the most striking examples, the emergency department of a Seattle-area hospital became so overwhelmed last month that the department’s charge nurse called 911 for help, telling the fire department that they were “drowning” and in “dire straits.”
There were reportedly over 45 people in the department’s waiting room and only five nurses on staff.
Central Kitsap Fire and Rescue Chief Jay Christian told local media that he sent a crew to the hospital, St. Michael Medical Center, and firefighters helped hospital staff there clean rooms, change beds, and take patients’ vital signs until the crisis subsided.
But in public meetings last week, the hospital’s president, Chad Melton, acknowledged that things aren’t getting better.
Melton reported that there are more than 300 open positions at the facility, but no one has applied for positions in the emergency department. “The emergency department specifically, zero candidates interviewing. Zero,” Melton said.
A report last month from health care analytics company Definitive Healthcare estimated that over 300,000 health care providers dropped out of the workforce just last year due to burnout and other pandemic-related stressors …