PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — Arizona’s hospital resources are stretched, with intensive care beds 95% full. Hospitals need to free up patients to open more beds, and many of those patients require ongoing care. Often they visit a qualified nursing facility before returning home.
The surge of COVID-19 is causing many of these secondary care units to refuse new admissions. “A lot of that is down to staffing, because there’s an understaffing across the workforce here, and that’s affecting skilled nursing even more,” said Dave Voepel, CEO of the Arizona Health Care Association.
When they say no to new admissions, it leaves patients waiting days or even weeks in intensive care, and hospitals cannot open those beds. “If they don’t have enough staff, they can’t open a bed, which complicates things even more,” Voepel said. “We can’t help hospitals decompress.”
“Now staff have to take the time to manage their patients who could have been treated on an outpatient basis if they were ready to go, and that only adds to the problem we are having right now,” said Dr Arya Chowdhury, an independent contractor who works in several Phoenix Metro emergency rooms.
Only 5% of our state’s critical care beds are open right now, and with skilled nursing facilities not taking care of patients, that’s a huge bottleneck. “I see multiple cases where a patient was discharged to a facility and then literally turned around in the ambulance back to the ER,” Chowdhury said. “I see the same patient again, and I ask, ‘Why?’ The patient just got out. Why is the patient back?’ They’ll say, ‘Oh, we just didn’t have the capacity to take care of that patient.’
In these secondary care units, nurses, already in short supply, are calling more, having to be quarantined due to the fast-spreading omicron variant. On top of that, some facilities feel pressured to protect current patients from COVID-19. “Because they don’t have COVID in the building and maybe they don’t have enough energized residents yet where they feel capable of caring for a COVID patient safely, so they are unable to take them.” said Voepel. “They shouldn’t take them.”
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In an email, a spokesperson for the Arizona Department of Health Services said, “ADHS is in close contact with qualified nursing facilities to facilitate transfers of COVID-19 patients to care. post-acute.”
“We just have to work our way through it,” Voepel said. “We know that omicron is probably going to run out of steam very soon. Hope this helps.”
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