Hospitals across the state of Illinois are facing challenging times, trying to maintain normal operations while seeing a dramatic increase in the number of COVID patients.
“I think we’re balancing right now. I wouldn’t say we are thriving but we’re definitely surviving,” Wayne Laramie, VP and Chief Nursing Office for OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center, said.
Laramie says that his hospital is shifting around resources to address COVID case surges in Rockford, among other locations.
“We move people around. Our staff are moving from the outpatient to the inpatient side,” he said. “We have lots of people working overtime for additional time and different hours.”
Hospitalizations related to COVID are at their highest levels in nearly a year in Illinois, with 4,178 total patients currently hospitalized because of the virus.
The number of critically-ill COVID patients is also on the rise, leaving four of the state’s 11 health care regions with fewer than 10 available staffed ICU beds.
Region 1, located in the northwest corner of the state, has six beds out of 139 currently open. In Region 7, comprised of Will and Kankakee counties, six beds out of 133 are available, according to Illinois Department of Public Health data.
The hospitalizations are not only taxing for doctors who have to treat COVID patients, but also for clinics that are trying to find room for other emergency and inpatient care needs, such as patients requiring care for car accidents, heart attacks and other ailments.
Add staffing shortages to the mix, and physicians and hospitals are feeling the strain.
“Our hospitals are really stretched to the maximum,” Dr. Susan Martell said. “They’re all committed to providing high-quality care to everyone who needs the care, but they are stretched to the maximum.”
Advocate Health Care, the largest system in Illinois, says that it is treating 935 COVID patients in Illinois and Wisconsin, nearly three times as many as it was treating just eight weeks ago. The additional patients are causing long wait times for those seeking care, and causing intense strain for those providing that care.
“It’s a struggle on a lot of days, and some days it’s just like ‘keep your head down and keep going,’” Kristen Perez of the Illinois Nurses Association said.
Perez says the additional COVID patients are once again shining the light on a need for more staffing at hospitals and health clinics, a problem that existed before the pandemic even began.
“We deal with emergencies and difficult situations all day long, but there is a limit to what one person can handle, and we’ve all been asked to do far more than that,” she said.
Martell and other physicians say that the best way to combat the issue is for the public to do its fair share to protect the health care system, and that starts with measures like masking and getting vaccinated against COVID.
“We have to understand that health care is a resource for our community, and we as a community have to work to protect that resource,” she said.