Hospitalizations for COVID-19 remain at an all-time high while cases in major cities across the country begin to fall. This begs the question: how long should Arizona expect to continue the surge related to the Omicron variant, and will strained hospitals be able to continue?
On Wednesday, January 26, the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) logged 18,229 new cases and 275 new deaths related to COVID-19. This brings the state total deaths to 25,899. Only 6% of intensive care unit beds and 5% of all hospital beds remain available, with 40% of beds currently in use by COVID-19 patients, according to the ADHS COVID-19 data dashboard.
Wednesday marked the second anniversary of the first case of COVID-19 diagnosed in an Arizona hospital. Dr. Michael White of Valleywise Health said in a press conference on Tuesday that the health system is still experiencing high employee turnover and an increase in worker burnout as the surge related to the Omicron variant continues. This is having a prolonged effect on hospital resources in multiple ways.
This is at a time when we have seen a continued attrition of healthcare workers, those that are able to deliver healthcare and work in healthcare since the start of this pandemic, two years ago from this. We are continuing to see short staffing… requiring us to delay and defer surgeries that aren’t urgent and emergent.
In a Monday press conference, Banner Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Marjorie Bessel announced that due to limited staffing, some Banner Urgent Care locations are temporarily closed and suggested telehealth appointments to the public instead of in-person visits.
Arizona Public Health Association executive director Will Humble explained to State of Reform how staffing shortages are causing the delay of medical procedures.
Most hospital systems are not doing elective procedures. Things like heart valves that are not life-threatening, slow grind prostate surgeries aren’t happening, hip and knee replacements… Basically none of that is happening in our state right now because they just don’t have the staff for it…
They’re really all in contingency standards of care, which means they’re admitting people with different criteria. In other words, they’re not admitting people that they would normally admit under regular circumstances. They’re discharging people earlier, they’re using different staffing ratios…
According to 12News, many new mothers are making the decision to deliver their children at home instead of giving birth in hospitals. Analysis by insurance analytics company QuoteWizard shows that Arizona’s home birth numbers have increased 36% since the beginning of the pandemic, the 8th largest increase in the country. According to the American Pregnancy Association, home births can be less expensive than giving birth in a hospital, but more out-of-pocket costs can arise from the practice.
Arizona may need to wait to see the surge related to the Omicron variant slow down. KJZZ says that hospital models predict hospitalizations will peak around mid-February, given that another variant does not emerge in that time. From Dr. Bessel:
We have not yet peaked with this Omicron wave and we still have some time ahead of us. Please get vaccinated, get boosted and wear a good KN95 or N95 mask until we peak and get over that peak and are headed down.
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