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Hospital Staffing Shortage Is Primary Concern for Ohio COVID-19 Fight

Jeff St.Clair
The Cleveland Clinic's Dr. Robert Wyllie says there's hope a vaccine can reduce concerns of COVID next year, but this year people must remain vigilant to fight the spread.

Updated: 3:15 p.m., Monday, Nov. 9, 2020

A lack of available staff could greatly impact the care hospitals are able to provide for both coronavirus patients and anyone else in need of hospital services, said Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, incoming chief medical director of the Ohio Department of Health Monday.

Hospital challenges have changed throughout the course of the pandemic.

In the spring, one of the biggest concerns for hospitals was a shortage of personal protective equipment. Now, Ohio hospitals say they have enough supplies, but there are worries about staffing shortages.

“We are seeing in the state an unprecedented spike in hospital utilization,” Vanderhoff said.

The state is divided into three coronavirus care zones, and the leaders of each zone said at a Monday press conference that health care providers are primarily catching coronavirus from community spread, not from hospitals or their workplaces.

When health care providers are exposed, they aren’t able to work and that means fewer people to care for patients, Vanderhoff said, warning that if Ohio’s community spread isn’t controlled within the next few weeks, less urgent care may have to be postponed in order to care for the sickest patients.

The doctors say the cutback on less urgent procedures will not happen immediately, and it may be a matter of each hospital making decisions based on their capacity.

In mid-March, elective surgeries and procedures in Ohio were halted under a statewide health order as part of the effort to keep health care staff and equipment available for coronavirus response; elective procedures resumed in late April, though doctors and patients were urged to consider both the health and virus-exposure risks involved.

“The number of hospital cases in our community is doubling every three weeks,” said Dr. Richard Lofgren, president and CEO of UC Health.

The doctors said hospitals have enough personal protective equipment, beds and ventilators.

The end of the pandemic is in sight, said Dr. Robert Wyllie, chief medical operating officer at the Cleveland Clinic. There will be a vaccine soon, he said, but everyone needs to wear masks, avoid gatherings and keep up best cleaning practices until the vaccine is available.

Vaccinations are likely to be available in four to six months, Wyllie said.
Copyright 2020 90.3 WCPN ideastream.

Lisa Ryan is a health reporter at Ideastream Public Media.