Hospitals across Illinois are facing challenging times trying to maintain normal operations while seeing an increase in COVID patients.
“I think we’re balancing right now,” said Wayne Laramie, vice president and chief nursing officer for OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center. “I wouldn’t say we’re thriving but we’re definitely surviving.”
Laramie said his hospital is shifting resources to address the recent surge in Rockford.
“We move people around, our staff [is] moving from the outpatient to the inpatient side,” he said. “We have lots of people working overtime for additional time and different hours, so that adjustment up and down and the uncertainty of tomorrow weighs heavy on us.”
Northern Illinois is one of four regions hit hardest, with fewer than 10 ICU beds left for patients. ICU bed availability is near capacity in Regions 1, 3, 5, and 7, data shows.
“Our hospitals are really stretched to the maximum,” said Winnebago County Health Department Public Health Administrator Dr. Susan Martell. “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 health system in Illinois, said that it's currently treating 935 COVID patients in Illinois and Wisconsin, nearly three times more than eight weeks ago.
A spokesperson for Advocate told NBC 5 in a statement that the situation is growing more challenging by the day—beds are tight, wait times are long and team members are strained.
“It’s a struggle on a lot of days and some days it’s just like keep your head down and keep going,” said Kristen Perez, a registered nurse in Chicago and member of the Illinois Nurses Association.
She said the pandemic continues to highlight a problem that has existed for years in her field—the need for more staffing.
“We deal with emergencies and difficult situations all day long, but there is a limit to what one person can handle, and we’ve been all asked to do far more than that,” Perez said.
As more resources are needed for hospitals in a crucial time, public health officials said getting vaccinated is still our best form of protection.
“We have to understand that health care is a resource for our community, and we as a community have to work to protect our resources,” said Martell.
Heartland Regional Medical Center in Marion is part of Region 5. Crista Minnick, the center's chief nursing officer, issued the following statement to NBC 5 about the situation at her hospital.
“At present, we are at capacity. We have eight patients hospitalized in our ICU, five of which are COVID-positive. Our patient volumes and acuity levels change by the hour. We are closely monitoring staffing and equipment levels as volumes change. We continue to have sufficient supplies and PPE available for all staff to care for patients, including COVID-19 patients. We have additional capacity in our Covid unit. Heartland is following CDC and Illinois Department of Health Guidelines and continue to monitor this situation as cases have spiked in our state.”