Surge Capacity Strategies

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

(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.

Primary Care & COVID-19:
(11/17/20) Week 22 Survey
(10/01/20) Week 21 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.

(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.

(09/30/20) The Essential Role of Population Health During and Beyond COVID-19
This research article covers the ways in which health care delivery has changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Issues with the fee-for-service payment model, demographic disparities in health care, and rapid expansion of telehealth technologies are all key points outlined.

(09/28/20) Health on Wheels: Tricked-Out RVs Deliver Addiction Treatment to Rural Communities
With clinics closing and limiting services due to the COVID-19 pandemic, addiction treatment providers are finding innovative ways to continue to deliver services to rural communities. Utilizing custom mobile addiction treatment clinics and telehealth technology, these services can continue for those most in need. 

(09/25/20) Pharmacies Are Bracing for a Surge in Demand for Flu Shots Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic
As seasonal influenza cases are expected to begin rising soon, pharmacies across the United States are preparing for large surges in demand for vaccines, leading to larger quantities being stockpiled compared to usual.

(09/25/20) A New “PPE” for a Thriving Community: Public Health, Primary Care, Health Equity
The COVID-19 pandemic has rocked the United States, emerging attention is being paid to public health, primary care, and access to health care. This blog post on the Health Affairs blog discusses some strategies for ensuring synergy and effectiveness in protecting the population at large with these focuses.

(09/24/20) Who Gets Coronavirus Vaccine First? Maybe Not All Front-line Healthcare Workers, HHS Committee Told
This article from Beckers Hospital Review covers the National Vaccine Advisory Committee’s recent panel, where it was announced that distribution of vaccines to front-line health care workers may not be the most ethical option. As vaccine quantity will be limited, other high-risk populations may need to be given priority.

(09/23/20) Community Health Workers and Covid-19 — Addressing Social Determinants of Health in Times of Crisis and Beyond
This perspective piece published in the New England Journal of Medicine promotes investing in the community health workforce as a means to help confront systemic racism and social determinants of health in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Integrating community health workers into existing health systems can promote better patient advocacy among providers and help improve and maintain better health outcomes in the communities they serve.

(09/22/20) Tyson Plant That Had Major COVID-19 Outbreak Works With Clinic to Get Health Care Nearby
Meat packing plants have consistently been cited as a major concern for outbreaks of COVID-19. In response to this concern, Tyson has partnered with medical clinics that will open exclusively for employees of these meatpacking facilities.

(09/22/20) With Limited COVID-19 Vaccine Doses, Who Would Get Them First?
As vaccine production continues, conversations about establishing priority for distribution are leading to questions about who can be considered a front-line health worker. With an expected limited initial supply of the vaccine, answering these questions is essential to protecting the health care system.

(09/22/20) Primary Care Has Not Fully Bounced Back, According to New Survey
A new survey released by the Primary Care Collaborative has found that more than eight in ten primary care clinicians disagree with the notion that primary care has recovered from COVID-19 related reductions in services. A majority of clinicians have reported working longer hours with reduced capacity compared to pre-pandemic.

(09/20/20) Advances In ICU Care Are Saving More Patients Who Have COVID-19
This story from NPR highlights how innovative changes to the intensive care unit in response to the COVID-19 pandemic are working to save lives. As doctors across the world learn more about best practices in ICUs, these practices are being replicated and mortality is decreasing.

(09/17/20) The First Look at the US Government’s COVID-19 Vaccine ‘Playbook’
This article introduces the government’s plan for COVID-19 vaccine rollout. The plan includes multiple phases for who will be eligible to receive the vaccine, with healthcare workers, the elderly and high risk, and essential workers taking top priority.

(09/17/20) Black Women Turn to Midwives to Avoid COVID and ‘Feel Cared For’
Maternal mortality among Black women in the United States is a major cause for concern. As the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated these inequalities, the demand for midwives in performing out-of-hospital births has gained traction as an effective and potentially safer alternative.

(09/16/20) The Human Touch — Addressing Health Care’s Workforce Problem Amid the Pandemic
As the health workforce continues to struggle to meet the needs of the pandemic, projections suggest that the pandemic will continue into 2021. This perspective piece furthers the conversation about the need for organized aid from volunteers, med students, retired physicians, and more to fill the gaps in the workforce.

(09/15/20) COVID Exodus Fills Vacation Towns With New Medical Pressures
An article from Kaiser Health News discussing a unique issue posed on medical centers in what would otherwise be major tourist destinations: major influxes of affluent individuals seeking to escape large cities, leading to high demand for services atypical to the area.

(09/14/20) The Key to Efficient Vaccine Distribution: Start Preparing Early
An opinion piece published in STAT suggesting some strategic moves to prepare for the vaccine distribution needed to meet the needs of the COVID-19 pandemic. The authors suggest guidance and coordination from federal, state, and local public health officials and ensuring priority is given to highest risk individuals, including the elderly, frontline health care providers, and first responders.

(09/02/20) During the Vietnam War, These Physician-Scientists Were Called ‘Yellow Berets.’ They Are What We Need to Fight COVID-19
An opinion piece published in STAT discussing the use of physician-scientists during the Vietnam War and the benefit of having a physician who can treat patients and quickly transition to studying disease in the laboratory. The National Institutes of Health Associates Training Program enabled recent graduate physicians to receive multi-year extensive clinical research training, and the author advocates for boosting this program again to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

(08/30/20) Hawaii’s Hospitals are in Urgent Need of Nurses to Tackle a Surge in COVID-19 Cases
Hospitalizations for COVID-19 are on the rise in Hawaii and nurses are in short supply, leading to concerns about a problem that continues to worsen. Many of the employee representative organizations within Hawaii are collaborating to bring more nurses and other health care workers to Hawaii to help deal with the surge.

(08/28/20) New York City Nervously Braces for Another ‘Explosive Spread’
New York City was the epicenter of COVID-19 cases as the pandemic first reached the United States. Although the spread of COVID-19 has been kept under control for months, fears of another large surge in cases are leading hospitals in the city to stockpile personal protective equipment and make other preparations.

(08/26/20) Preparations for Second Surge of Coronavirus Underway
This article covers some of the preparations being made in hospitals across Massachusetts ahead of an anticipated second surge of COVID-19 cases. Stockpiling personal protective equipment, standardizing protocols, and improving staffing are all aims of this preparation effort.

(08/18/20) ICU Capacity is More About the Clinicians Than the Number of Beds
This opinion piece featured in STAT discusses the reality behind intensive care unit capacity in the United States health care system during the COVID-19 pandemic. As many health professionals in ICU settings are in critical roles treating COVID-19 patients, many are being asked to work overtime for months on end and experiencing burnout at high rates, leading to fears of worse care quality.

(08/17/20) Nurse Practitioner COVID-19 Survey
The American Association of Nurse Practitioners has released the results of a survey of nurse practitioners conducted between July 28 and August 9. Important data captured includes delays in getting patient results of COVID-19 tests, increases in nurse practitioners testing positive for COVID-19, and opinions on the regulatory and licensure flexibility many states are employing.

(08/14/20) FDA Creates First-ever Medical Supply Shortage List Including Masks, Swabs, and Ventilators
As questions of maintaining hospital capacity continue, the Food and Drug Administration has created a list of all medical supplies used to treat COVID-19 that are experiencing shortages. This first-ever list will help determine the capacity and safety of treating patients for many health professionals.

(08/11/20) 26 States Will Soon Face Shortages of ICU Doctors
Researchers at George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health found that twenty six states will soon face shortages in health care workers needed to treat patients with COVID-19. There are projected shortages this month in doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists and pharmacists.

(08/10/2020) COVID-19 is Elevating New Type of Executive: Chief Medical Officer
Health systems are now more at risk of losing their CMOs as companies seek expert health advice during the pandemic, reports The Wall Street Journal.

(08/07/20) Expanding Our Health Force Can Save Lives and Create Jobs Simultaneously
This opinion piece discusses how Connecticut and Massachusetts effectively controlled the spread of COVID-19 within their states and implemented community-based strategies that enabled this control to continue while creating jobs and preserving capacity within the health care system.

(08/07/20) Coronavirus Cases Are Surging. The Contact Tracing Workforce Is Not
This article/podcast examines the fact that the US contact tracing workforce continues to fall short of projected need. NPR’s recent survey of all 50 states, completed in collaboration with John Hopkins Center for Health Security, found the national workforce has not grown significantly since mid June.

(08/06/20) As Clinicians Are Redeployed for Covid-19, Onboarding Takes on Extra Importance                          An article that looks at the challenges of onboarding clinicians during the pandemic. Some Problems include: addressing fear and anxiety, clarifying procedures for delivering care, and relationship building.

(08/03/20) Nearly Half of Low-income Communities Have No ICU Beds in Their Area
An article covering a recent study published in Health Affairs which shows that nearly half of low-income communities in the United States have no intensive care unit beds. With COVID-19 threatening the critical care capacity of most of the nation, this could lead to significant issues dealing with surge capacity throughout the United States.

(08/03/20) The Pandemic is Boosting the Public’s View of Doctors
An article discussing how recent surveys show that the public support for physicians has improved significantly compared to pre-pandemic levels. Higher appreciation for health care workers is associated with better morale and may help recruit more health care workers in the future.

(08/03/20) Address the Nurse Shortage in 2020 and Beyond: 5 Key Takeaways for Hospital Leaders
An article from Beckers Hospital Review discussing how COVID-19 has exacerbated an already short supply of nurses throughout the United States. Some strategies discussed to improve the situation include focusing on career advancement opportunities and flexible scheduling, as well as competitive compensation packages.

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