Illinois Hospital Leaders Issue Plea as COVID Overwhelms Staff

Physician and staff infections have risen as the latest surge increases, according to one health system official

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Leaders of Illinois' hospital systems say their doctors, nurses and other employees are simply tired and worn out as the pandemic nears two years with no immediate end in sight.

Executives at three hospital systems joined Gov. J.B. Pritzker for a news conference Monday where they pleaded for residents to get vaccinated and also provided a picture of the dire situations at facilities across the state.

Allan Spooner, CEO of Franciscan Health South Suburban Chicago, said COVID-19 cases at the system's hospitals have grown four times over the past three weeks - from 10 to 42%. More than 70% of critical care patients have COVID-19, with 30% of them requiring a ventilator, he said.

Physician and staff infections have risen as the latest surge increases, Spooner said, "exacerbating an already precarious staffing shortage across health care."

"So what do we do about it? Get vaccinated and get boosted," he said. "Please remember that the greatest gift that you can give your loved ones is to get vaccinated and boosted."

Rex Budde, president and CEO of Southern Illinois Healthcare, reinforced a similar message.

Dr. Ngozi Ezike delivers a COVID update for Illinois as omicron variant cases continue to spread across the state.

"The number one thing that we can do is get vaccinated," he said.

Budde said 40% of the Carbondale hospital's medical beds are occupied with COVID patients. As is the case at other health systems, he said to treat COVID patients, the hospital has had to pull resources from other parts of the facility and delay treatment for others, including stroke and heart care patients.

"People are dying from this virus that don't need to die," he said. "Imagine being a nurse or a physician or a care tech who have to look at this and deal with this every single day. The staff is worn out. Nurses are worn out. Physicians are worn out."

Colleen Kannaday, president of Carle BroMenn Medical Center in Normal, said the majority of the hospital's COVID patients, especially those in critical care, are unvaccinated.

"I worry right now that our pleas to our communities and asking everyone to get vaccinated have become white noise and are actually causing some to bristle at the words, and that's certainly not what's intended," she said.

The hospital president recounted a recent conversation during which she asked an intensive care unit physician "how he was doing today."

"And he looked at me very down and distraught and very defeated and he said simply to me, 'I am so tired with people needlessly dying. It doesn't have to be this way. And it's tearing apart families,'' she stated.

Kannaday said she's heard many people say that they're healthy and don't need to get vaccinated, because they don't think they'd get very sick if they contracted COVID.

"...Please think of your neighbor. What if you had a child or a grandchild at home that wasn't old enough to get vaccinated and was being treated for cancer or some other type of disease?" she said. "That you know if they got COVID, they would likely not do well? If this were your child, would you rethink and would you get vaccinated?"

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