US Hospitals Are Critically Short on Staff to Handle COVID-19

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has just raised a red flag as their statistics of 1000 hospitals combating with COVID-19 highlighted that these facilities are under staffed and their situation is getting worse with time.

These statistics remain the same for hospitals in all states and Washington D.C. which comprises of nearly eighteen percent of the hospitals surveyed. In anticipation of the situation getting worse, nearly twenty-one percent of these hospitals are reporting that they will face moderate to severe shortage of staff including healthcare workers and paramedics in next two to three weeks.

This situation is worst in North Dakota where more than half of the hospitals are already tackling with severe staff shortage. Apart from this 7 other states say that 1/3 of their hospital are experiencing the same situation.

The Department of Health and Human Service has just released these figures for the first time and from the assessment of these numbers it appears that the federal government initiated this data collection in July of this summer. Looking at the trend, it is worrisome to note that since July the number of hospitals reporting staff shortage has been on the rise and recently their number shot past 1000 marker and this upward trajectory has never changed.

Such collection of information from healthcare facilities across the country can help people dealing with this pandemic in order to assess their response against the pandemic but at the same time it shows how flawed this system of recording and sharing parameters is. Since the beginning, federal government has been recording data of infections as well as deaths but there is only a fraction of its which is shared with general public.

This project of collecting data from hospitals combating COVID-19 is being led by Pinar Karaca-Mandic and she has termed it as, “very positive data development and effort that offers a possibility to plan ahead, especially the anticipated staffing shortages.” She has also of the view that it will of tremendous help to the researchers if other dimensions of this data apart from numbers are also shared with the public but federal government shares very limited information.

Already depleting numbers of healthcare workers in the worst hit states have made their administrators to take heartless decisions such as North Dakota where due to lack of nurses, the on call nurses were asked to continue performing their duties as long as they don’t develop symptoms of the disease.

In another instance, hospitals in Kansas are looking for healthcare facilities in the states as far away as Iowa to take care of the seriously sick patients which cannot be accommodated in the healthcare facilities in Kansas City.

An expert working in University of Wisconsin hospital as Medical Director is of the opinion that as the cases grow the shortage of staff will also increase and one thing that needs to be understood is that equipments such as HDU beds can be procured in a short period of time but human resource such as healthcare workers are in limited numbers and they are already strained by the havoc caused by the ongoing pandemic.

Therefore, it is very important to have rich data sets from these hospitals for the administrators and federal public to plan pragmatically and brace for the next few weeks when infections are expected to soar.

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