Surge Capacity Issues

Articles, blogs, and reports about health workforce capacity issues and strategies.

(01/15/21) In LA, Ambulances Circle for Hours and ICUs Are Full. Is This What COVID-19 Has in Store for the Rest of the Country?
This article featured in STAT discusses the current capacity issues experienced in Los Angeles, California. Southern California continues to be a region experiencing crisis with emergency rooms over capacity, nurses over mandated patient limits, and the National Guard called in to help assist with removing patient bodies who have died of COVID-19.

(01/11/21) One Ambulance Ride Leads to Another When Packed Hospitals Cannot Handle Non-COVID Patients
Patients in need of emergency care not related to COVID-19 are increasingly unable to find care in emergency departments in many parts of the United States, as COVID-19 has put many departments at maximum capacity. Some facilities are reporting as much as an 800% increase in hospitalizations, putting many in their community at risk in case of any emergency.

(01/06/21) Children’s Hospitals Grapple With Wave of Mental Illness
This article from Kaiser Health News highlights how the COVID-19 pandemic has led to increased utilization of emergency departments by children and adolescents with mental health-related issues. As maintaining surge capacity in hospitals has led to reductions in other areas, psychiatric beds have been unavailable and many of the previous issues in mental health care are being exacerbated.

(01/05/21) ‘Things Are Worse Than People Think’: LA County Official on New Directives for EMS
A new directive from Los Angeles county instructs emergency medical technicians to conserve oxygen in the field and to avoid bringing patients with little chance to survive to hospitals.Los Angeles County’s Emergency Medical Services Agency is struggling to meet the demands of the pandemic, as hospitals are too full to take in patients from ambulances.

Primary Care & COVID-19:
(01/04/21) Round 24 Survey
(11/23/20) Round 23 Survey

A frequent primary care survey about COVID-19 from the Primary Care Collaborative and the Larry A. Green Center. The goal of this project is to assess primary care’s ability to evaluate and manage patients during the COVID-19 pandemic and to consider policy implications going forward.

(01/04/21) Using State Licensure Data to Assess North Carolina’s Health Workforce COVID-19 Response Capacity
A new research brief published in the North Carolina Medical Journal from the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research highlights the response capacity of health care providers North Carolina utilizing state licensure data. This data is invaluable to health care decision makers in the rapid response environment of the COVID-19 pandemic.

(01/04/21) ‘Last Responders’ Brace for Surge in COVID Deaths Across US
This article from Kaiser Health News discusses how health care workers and others responsible for taking care of the bodies of those who have died from COVID-19 are bracing for more deaths in the weeks to come. Refrigerated morgues have become increasingly commonplace as excess deaths overwhelm health care systems across the United States.

(12/31/20) US Sets Daily Coronavirus Death Record for Second Straight Day
As 2020 comes to a close, December remains as the single deadliest month thus far during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the month with the most new infections and hospitalizations.

(12/30/20) 75 Air Force, Army Healthcare Workers Headed to California Hospitals
Health care workers from the Air Force and Army are being deployed to hospitals in California as the state deals with overwhelming surges in COVID-19 cases. Beyond California, health care providers in the military are also being deployed to treat COVID-19 patients in North Dakota, Wisconsin, and the Navajo Nation.

(12/23/20) ‘Every Day Is an Emergency’: The Pandemic Is Worsening Psychiatric Bed Shortages Nationwide
While much of the focus throughout the pandemic has been on intensive care unit beds and improving emergency capacity for patients sick with COVID-19, this piece from STAT highlights the pandemic-related shortages in psychiatric beds across the United States.

(12/22/20) Tennessee Hospitals Are Disturbingly Close to Their Breaking Point
In response to surges in cases and hospitalizations for COVID-19 in recent weeks, hospitals in Tennessee are implementing emergency overflow protocols in an effort to avoid patients receiving treatment in hallways. Emergency capacity reaching maximums has led to waiting rooms converting into patient treatment areas and some patients being told to return home unless symptoms worsen.

(12/21/20) Epidemiologists Urge a Cautious Christmas, After Thanksgiving Surge in Some States
Throughout the United States, surges being attributed to Thanksgiving holiday gatherings are acting as a warning for expected future surges from gatherings over the Christmas holiday. Hospitals are currently at risk of running out of room while public health officials urge families to avoid gatherings to keep capacity available.

(12/21/20) Federal Data Reveal Which Hospitals Are Dangerously Full This Week. Is Yours?
This article from NPR highlights a new tool, utilizing analysis from the University of Minnesota COVID-19 Hospitalization Tracking Project of recent federal government data to show current inpatient and intensive care unit beds available in hospitals throughout the United States.

(12/18/20) California Sees Record 379 Coronavirus Deaths As ICU Capacity Plummets
Intensive care unit capacity in southern California has reached 0%, with nearly all patients in hospitals being hospitalized for COVID-19. Capacity is reaching crisis levels as deaths rise to record highs.

(12/18/20) Newly Released COVID-19 Data Show Most US Cities Are ‘Sustained Hotspots’
As the first health care workers in the US receive vaccinations for COVID-19, infections are still rampant throughout the country, and the pandemic will likely continue for months.

(12/18/20) No More ICU Beds at the Main Public Hospital in the Nation’s Largest County
An article from Kaiser Health News covering the current intensive care unit capacity issues in Los Angeles county, California. The Los Angeles county is the largest county by population in the United States, and the largest public hospital within the county is running out of available space to treat patients.

(12/17/20) Officials Stress That the Pandemic ‘Is Not Over Yet’ as US Vaccinations Begin
Although vaccinations for COVID-19 have begun with priority populations in the United States, there is still widespread uncontrolled infection. As vaccine supply is limited, health officials are urging resiliency and patience in adhering to COVID-19 guidelines.

(12/16/20) US Cases Up 51% in 1 Month; Surges Slow in Some Midwest States — 6 COVID-19 Updates
This COVID-19 update post from Becker’s Hospital Review highlights the increase in cases by 51% in just one month, as well as shifts in infection from the midwest and efforts by California to prepare for more deaths.

(12/14/20) COVID, ICU Capacity: 1 in 8 US Hospitals Out of Intensive Care Space
The pandemic is leading to crisis in many parts of the United States. This article from USA Today covers the difficult reality that one-in-eight intensive care unit beds throughout the United States are currently filled with COVID-19 patients, with some parts of the US experiencing nearly 100% capacity.

(12/12/20) Rural Health Systems Challenged by COVID-19 Surge
This article from NPR highlights the current crisis experienced in rural facilities across the United States as they address the COVID-19 pandemic, especially the surge following Thanksgiving holiday gatherings. Small towns are experiencing illness and hospitalization rates never before seen.

(12/09/20) ‘There’s No Place for Them to Go’: ICU Beds Near Capacity Across US
This New York Times article discusses the intensive care unit capacity across the United States. Unlike surges in COVID-19 experienced over the summer months, the current surges are everywhere at once, edging hospitals closer to maximum capacity.

(12/08/20) UPMC Hires Nurses, Adds Beds As COVID-19 Spreads
A sharp increase in cases and hospitalizations for COVID-19 in western Pennsylvania has led the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center to hire more staff and increase COVID-19 beds in an effort to meet the needs of patients in the system’s 40 hospitals.

(12/05/20) US Sets New Daily Coronavirus Record With Nearly 228,000 Cases
Record-breaking case numbers for COVID-19 are becoming increasingly common, following Friday’s daily tally of nearly 228,000, more than 10,000 higher than the previous record tally set the day before. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is encouraging citizens not to travel for the upcoming holidays to avoid overwhelming hospital systems.

(12/05/20) ‘Extraordinary Acceleration’: Takeaways From the Pandemic Last Week
For the first time since April, daily death tolls from COVID-19 across the nation are reaching record levels. Hospitals are experiencing record breaking patient loads nearly everywhere in the United States, with increasing fear of a “Thanksgiving surge” on the horizon.

(12/04/20) Montana Nurse Describes How Coronavirus Pushes Rural Health Care to Its Limits
In this story from Here & Now, a nurse in Montana describes the impact of COVID-19 on rural health care providers, who are stretched thin treating unprecedented patient levels. With limited patient beds and staff available, sick workers are coming back to work as soon as they are able to continue patient treatment, even when not fully recovered.

(12/04/20) What Happened When the Only ER Doctor in a Rural Town Got COVID
This article highlights the impact of COVID-19 infection on rural hospitals, which often do not have resiliency to meet the demands of surges of cases and hospitalization. The example of the small town of Cheyenne Wells, Colorado, where the only emergency room physician at a small rural hospital became ill with COVID-19, requiring a physician to travel 10 hours from Texas to cover some of the shifts.

(12/03/20) ‘We’re All Tired Of This’: Health Care Workers In Seattle Prepare For Another Surge
This story from NPR discusses the new routines of health care workers treating patients with COVID-19, which are increasingly straining in preparation for continued cases and hospitalizations. Intensive care unit beds are filling up and providers are fearful of the difficulties to come.

(12/03/20) NYC Hospital Workers, Knowing How Bad It Can Get, Brace for COVID 2nd Wave
Members of the New York State Nurses Association are fearful of the strain and staffing shortages in hospitals across New York City, even as health leaders and city officials express they feel much better prepared to meet any surge that comes in the coming weeks and months.

(12/03/20) Quarantined Health Workers Compound Staffing Shortages at California Hospitals
As intensive care units in California are approaching maximum capacity, difficulty maintaining adequate staffing levels is becoming more apparent. While hospitals are confident they have the bedspace needed, they are less confident in their ability to meet workforce needs to treat patients in those beds.

(12/02/20) CDC Director: Winter Could Be ‘Most Difficult Time in the Public Health History of This Nation’
The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Robert Redfield, has called for uniformity and harmony in messaging to prevent 200,000 deaths from COVID over the winter months. With over 90% of hospitals at risk of reaching maximum capacity, mitigation strategies are being encouraged as the best tool against further cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.

(12/02/20) US Hospital Use Surges; California Case Record: Virus Update
This update from Bloomberg provides some information on the hospitalization and new case trends for COVID-19. California is currently experiencing record-breaking increases in both cases and hospitalizations.

(12/02/20) As Hospitals Fill With COVID-19 Patients, Medical Reinforcements Are Hard to Find
This article from Kaiser Health News outlines the challenges being faced in hospitals across the United States as hospitalizations for COVID-19 continue into record territory. Due to the number of hospitalizations increasing across the country, there is limited availability to move staff across state lines, as may be utilized in previous emergencies to maintain hospital capacity.

(12/01/20) Rhode Island Doctor Discusses Running Field Hospital Amid Fall COVID-19 Surge
With field hospitals opening in many places across the country to meet the needs of increasing cases and hospitalizations for COVID-19, Here & Now interviewed Dr. Paari Gopalakrishnan, who is running a field hospital in Cranston, Rhode Island, about what field hospitals are enabling in the pandemic.

(11/29/20) Health Officials Warn of Post-Thanksgiving COVID-19 Case Surge
Following the travel of millions of Americans for the Thanksgiving holiday, federal health officials such as Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx are warning to expect surges of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations across the United States. This would put further strain on an already burdened health care landscape.

(11/27/20) COVID Overload: US Hospitals Are Running Out of Beds for Patients
This article from The New York Times highlights the severity of COVID-19 related hospitalizations across the United States. As patient beds fill, those coming in with other severe conditions are experiencing dangerous delays in treatment and difficulty finding space and workers to treat them.

(11/27/20) US Sets Record of More Than 90,000 COVID-19 Patients in Hospitals and Health-care Workers Warn Situation Is Dire
Record-breaking hospitalizations for COVID-19 are causing provider groups in many states to speak out demanding more restrictions and protections. Some states have issued new mask mandates and restrictions, while others have refused.

(11/25/20) A ‘Bad Case of Déjà Vu’: New Jersey Hospitals Brace for COVID-19 Surge, but Hope This Time Will Be Different
This article focuses on the preparations and expectations hospitals in New Jersey are facing while they await another surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. New Jersey was hit hard early in the pandemic and is bracing for new cases, while hoping they will have more personal protective equipment and better staffing response.

(11/24/20) Rural Areas Send Their Sickest Patients to Cities, Straining Hospitals
This joint report from Kaiser Health News and NPR covers how rural areas, often without mask mandates, are seeing massive spikes in cases and hospitalizations for COVID-19. As these areas fill smaller, regional hospitals, patients are increasingly transferred to hospitals in cities, causing fewer beds to be available for city residents.

(11/23/20) Emergency Hospital Reopening on Staten Island to Handle 2nd Wave
Cases and hospitalizations for COVID-19 are spiking in New York City, with fears of a situation similar to that seen in April coming back. This article covers the move to reopen an emergency field hospital on Staten Island as New York City battles another surge in cases.

(11/22/20) Now the US Has Lots of Ventilators, but Too Few Specialists to Operate Them
This article covers how production of ventilators has increased substantially since April, although there may not be enough specialists trained on their use to effectively utilize the life-saving devices. The shortage of intensivists in the United States may lead to otherwise preventable deaths.

(11/19/20) ‘People Are Going to Die’: Hospitals in Half the States Are Facing a Massive Staffing Shortage
An article from STAT covering the current issues experienced in hospitals in at least 25 states reporting shortages in staff to treat patients with COVID-19. The issues meeting staffing challenges are requiring some patients to be transferred hundreds of miles, sometimes across state lines.

(11/19/20) Patient Health Declining, New Primary Care Survey Shows
New survey data from the Larry A. Green Center and the Primary Care Collaborative shows that clinicians are reporting health declines related to closed primary care settings and patients delaying seeking care. Primary care practices also reported inability to fill open staff positions, difficulties with COVID-19 testing, and lack of personal protective equipment as significant issues.

(11/17/20) Hospitals Can’t Go On Like This
This article highlights troubling reports that as hospitals fill up across the United States, nearly one in 4 reports inability to meet staffing requirements to treat COVID-19-positive patients. Data from the Department of Health and Human Services is being used to identify which hospitals are reporting staffing issues, as staff who need to quarantine or too many patients for staffing levels compound issues.

(11/15/20) Rural Hospitals Crowded With COVID Patients As Cases and Deaths Surge
An article from USA Today covering the impact of the surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations on rural hospitals across the United States. Rural hospitals struggle to maintain staff and bed availability, requiring them to send patients to larger urban hospitals, sometimes hundreds of miles away.

(11/14/20) COVID-19 Hospitalizations Surge In Dakotas: ‘It’s Like We Opened Up A Spigot’
A story from NPR explaining the current surge in hospitalizations in North and South Dakota, which are currently experiencing the highest hospitalization rate in the United States. The surge is leading to policies such as allowing COVID-19-positive health care workers to treat patients in North Dakota, a move South Dakota is also considering implementing.

(11/13/20) The Pandemic Is Entering A Dangerous New Chapter. Here Are the Week’s Big Takeaways
Daily cases have increased 70% nationwide, since the beginning of the month. In other words, one in 378 people in the US have tested positive for COVID-19 over the last 7 days. Key takeaways include that hospitals are nearing capacity as deaths rise nearly everywhere for the first time in months.

(11/13/20) As COVID-19 Surges, Hospitals Scramble to Find Staff Amid Exhausted Workforce
Health care staffing demand is on the rise across the United States, with a 57% increase in demand reported for traveling nurses and more than 24,000 positions open at one leading traveling nurse organization alone. Physician burnout and infection of health care workers with COVID-19 is also exacerbating demand for nurses.

(11/13/20) As Cases Soar, Massachusetts Is Better Prepared to Handle Coronavirus Surge, Baker Says
As Massachusetts experiences a rise in hospitalizations and cases of COVID-19, Governor Charlie Baker has announced the planned reopening of several field hospitals previously opened in the spring. Hospitals are also planning to convert 400 acute care beds to intensive care unit beds to help meet demand.

(11/13/20) Coronavirus Live Updates: US Shatters Another Record for Daily Cases As States Threaten New Lockdowns
An article covering the current record-breaking outbreak of COVID-19 cases in the United States. Eighteen states have recorded record levels of hospitalizations for COVID-19, with nationwide numbers nearly doubling in the past 2 weeks.

(11/12/20) A Nationwide Case Surge Hits US Hospitals: This Week in COVID-19 Data, Nov 12
The United States is posting new records for COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations almost every day, and hospitals are reaching capacity in many areas where cases have surged. This report includes data visualization to show trends in COVID-19 hospitalization.

(11/12/20) Wisconsin COVID-19 Outbreak ‘Worse’ Than New York City Surge
The current COVID-19 outbreak in Wisconsin is surpassing the most dire surge experienced in New York City in late March and early April, the worst experienced in the United States thus far. The state is experiencing a higher daily case rate than New York City’s highest with less than a third of the population.

(11/11/20) Some Hospitals Are Running Out of Health Care Workers. Here’s What Could Happen Next
As Covid-19 hospitalizations reach record highs, elective procedures are being postponed in some states and retired health care workers are being recruited to help fight the pandemic, according to this CNN article.

(11/10/20) COVID-19 Hospitalizations Hit Record Highs. Where Are Hospitals Reaching Capacity?
This story from NPR helps visualize the trends and locations of COVID-19 cases across the United States. With cases of COVID-19 surging, experts are concerned that the next round of hospitalizations will be devastating and hospitals could reach capacity shortly.

(11/06/20) Ballad Health Seeks 350 Nurses As COVID-19 Hospitalizations Rise
Ballad Health in Tennessee is seeking to hire 350 nurses to meet COVID-19-related demand in hospitals. As hospitalized patients rise, staff is struggling to keep up and some nurses are being given more patients in an effort to meet the need.

(11/05/20) COVID Spike Leads to Concerns About Hospitals in KY, IN
This article focuses on the spikes in hospitalizations in Kentucky and Indiana which are causing concern over the continued capacity of hospitals to respond. Hospitals in both states have seen significant increases in hospitalization, including more than doubling the capacities of the intensive care units, leading to changes in how staff is scheduled to meet demand.

(11/02/20) COVID-Era Health Care Workforce Capacity in Washington, DC
A publication from the D.C. Policy Center detailing the health workforce capacity in Washington, DC in the current COVID-19 pandemic. This publication both offers information and analysis on workforce capacity that may help identify surge capacity and ability to respond to spikes in infection and hospitalization.

(11/02/20) Wisconsin Hospitals Scramble to Fill Staffing Void Amid COVID-19 Surge: 5 Things to Know
An update from Becker’s Hospital Review on the surges in cases and hospitalizations for COVID-19 and staffing shortages experienced in Wisconsin, as well as the attempts to attract new workers with sign-on bonuses and redeploy workers from less impacted services.

(10/31/20) Wisconsin Coronavirus: Hospitals Seek More Staff Amid COVID-19 Surge
This article covers recent struggles to meet the demands of staffing shortages in Wisconsin as the state faces surges in hospitalizations for COVID-19. Hospitals are resorting to redeploying employees from non-essential services or less impacted areas, as well as high pay for temporary and traveling health care workers.

(10/29/20) ‘Disaster in Warp Speed’: COVID-19 Outbreaks Ramp Up As Wisconsin Hits Record Cases, Deaths + Hospitalizations in Same Day — 5 COVID-19 Updates
This update from Becker’s Hospital Review discusses some of the current issues in COVID-19 relating to the health workforce and current surges in COVID-19. Several states are seeing record levels of infection and intensive care unit capacity issues and hospitalizations are on the rise across the United States.

(10/26/20) COVID Spikes Exacerbate Health Worker Shortages in Rocky Mountains, Great Plains
Surges in cases and hospitalizations for COVID-19 are exposing significant issues with health worker shortages in the Rocky Mountain and Midwestern areas of the United States. These clinics typically run on limited staff to save on costs in a non-pandemic environment, causing issues when staff contract COVID-19 or have to quarantine for 14 days.

(10/22/20) COVID-19 Surges in Rural Communities, Overwhelming Some Local Hospitals
While the midwestern United States experiences some of the largest surges in COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations, many of the rural health systems that serve them are beginning to be overwhelmed. Difficulties finding bed space and intensive care unit capacity is necessitating transferring patients to urban settings, sometimes even out of state.

(10/22/20) 16 States See Record COVID-19 Hospitalizations; CDC Expands Definition of ‘Close Contact’ — 6 Updates
This update from Becker’s Hospital Review covers the current rises in hospitalizations for COVID-19 experienced across the United States, with many states reaching record levels of hospitalization, as well as revision of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

(10/22/20) Stories of COVID-19: The Fine Line Between Essential and Non-essential Care
This personal essay discusses the differentiation between what is essential and non-essential care, and how sometimes the differences in designation can lead to missed diagnoses and worse outcomes for patients, especially as non-essential care is put on hold during rises in COVID-19 infection and hospitalization.

(10/20/20) ‘At a Breaking Point’: New Surge of COVID-19 Cases Has States, Hospitals Scrambling, Yet Again
An article form STAT covering the rise in cases and hospitalizations for COVID-19 experienced across the United States. As the surge continues, some fear the health care system is nearing a breaking point, with states establishing field hospitals and experiencing reemergence of cases in places that had outbreaks months ago.

(10/19/20) 1 Big Thing: Coronavirus Hospitalizations Are on the Rise
This newsletter from Axios highlights major rises in hospitalizations with a state-by-state diagram. Hospitalizations are currently rising in 39 states, with 16 states having reached or currently approaching record highs.

(10/19/20) Coronavirus Hospitalizations Are Growing in 37 States As Fauci Warns the World Not ‘on the Road’ to Ending Pandemic Yet
This story from CNBC covers the 37 states seeing an increase in hospitalizations for COVID-19 of 5% or more over the past week. Daily cases are also on the rise with hospitalizations, leading health experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci to call for caution and awareness.

(10/14/20) COVID-19 Contact Tracing Workforce Barely ‘Inching Up’ as Cases Surge
Cases of COVID-19 are rising fast in many states, however a new survey from the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and NPR has found that the contact tracing workforce across the United States has increased to more than 50,000, a 10,000 person increase from the previous survey in April, but short of the 100,000 recommended by public health experts. States are struggling with limited funding and data to establish contact tracing, with no federal funding expected to support efforts.

(10/07/20) Getting Health Care Was Already Tough in Rural Areas. The Pandemic Has Made it Worse
A new poll finds that one in four rural households has been unable to receive treatment for medical conditions since the beginning of the pandemic. The most common reasons reported by households include inability to make appointments due to clinics closing to in-person care, lack of providers accepting new patients, inability to afford treatment, and lack of transportation to receive treatment.

(10/05/20) Beyond Survival to Transformation: Investing in Safety-Net Innovation to Address the Impacts of COVID-19
Safety-net health systems, hospitals, and clinics act as a point of contact for those who are most vulnerable: the uninsured, underinsured, and those on public insurance plans such as Medicaid and Medicare. With the COVID-19 pandemic causing further strain on these systems, innovation and investment are key to improve and sustain the essential services safety-net facilities provide.

(10/05/20) New Primary Care Survey Results Show Patients’ Physical and Mental Health Declining
A new survey released by the Primary Care Collaborative has found that primary care clinicians are reporting physical and mental health declines in their patients. These clinicians are noticing these significant declines in health relating to the 7 months since the pandemic began.

(10/01/20) Can the U.S. Use its Growing Supply of Rapid Tests to Stop the Virus?
With increasing availability of faster, less expensive COVID-19 tests, there are hopes that the United States can get better control of infections and prevent outbreaks. This story from NPR covers how rapid tests could make a difference in fighting surges of COVID-19 infection.

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