DCH under strain with staff shortage, long emergency room waits


By WVUA 23 Digital Reporter Kyrsten Eller

With the rapid spread of the omicron variant, hospitals around the country are struggling to meet the demand for patients requiring tests and treatment while employees also battle COVID-19.

At DCH Health System an uptick in hospitalizations is putting a strain on short-staffed doctors and nurses.

As of Jan. 18, there are 114 inpatients with COVID-19 who are being treated. Of those, 67 are not vaccinated or are not fully vaccinated. Seventeen inpatients are in the ICU. Of those, 15 are not vaccinated or not fully vaccinated.

DCH Marketing and Communications Vice President Andy North said the system’s front-line medical workers and working as hard as they can, but the latest surge remains a major issue.

“The high numbers are certainly of concern to us,” said North. “It’s causing a lot of backflows as far as the number of individuals waiting in the emergency room to be admitted or discharged. Our staffing is really short across the board, so, it’s a difficult situation.”

North said the omicron variant’s contagiousness means employees are getting sick quicker and more often. Those who are ill don’t need to spend as long away from work as they did earlier in the pandemic, but more workers are catching COVID-19 themselves.

Complicating matters further is a dire need for new nurses.

“It’s very hard to get a nursing staff, and it seems to be that way across the state and nation,” said North. “For us right now, the big concern is how contagious this virus is because it’s just moving through the population so quickly, causing a lot of people to come to the emergency room with symptoms.”

If those symptoms don’t require immediate medical intervention, North said it’s better for everyone if patients instead visit an urgent care clinic or their primary care doctor. The emergency department is not the place for a COVID-19 test or mild symptoms, he said.

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