Pennsylvania Hospital Beds Filling Up Amid Virus Surge

Dec 3, 2020

Coronavirus. (CDC)
Credit CDC

Hospital beds are filling up and medical staffs are being stretched to the limit as Pennsylvania’s health care system copes with a growing number of seriously ill COVID-19 patients.

Nearly half of all hospitals in the south-central region of the state, and a third of those in the southwest, anticipate staffing shortages within a week, according to the state Department of Health. Nurses in the Philadelphia area say they’re overloaded with COVID-19 patients, impacting the quality of care they can provide.

And Pennsylvania’s top health official, Dr. Rachel Levine, said Thursday she’s worried about modeling that shows the state will run out of intensive care beds this month. More than 85% of the state’s ICU beds are occupied amid an enormous statewide spike in COVID-19 hospitalizations this fall.

Hospital beds are filling up and medical staffs are being stretched to the limit as Pennsylvania’s health care system copes with a growing number of seriously ill COVID-19 patients.

Nearly half of all hospitals in the south-central region of the state, and a third of those in the southwest, anticipate staffing shortages within a week, according to the state Department of Health. Nurses in the Philadelphia area say they’re overloaded with COVID-19 patients, impacting the quality of care they can provide.

And Pennsylvania’s top health official, Dr. Rachel Levine, said Thursday she’s worried about modeling that shows the state will run out of intensive care beds this month. More than 85% of the state’s ICU beds are occupied amid an enormous statewide spike in COVID-19 hospitalizations this fall.

Yet hospitals are still doing elective procedures — unlike early in the pandemic — “so those staff are busy and unable to help with the surge,” said a union spokesperson, Megan Gorman.

Levine recently ordered hospitals to delay elective procedures if they’re located in a region of the state where COVID admissions, hospital staffing and bed capacity reach critical levels, but a temporary pause has yet to be triggered anywhere.

At Temple University Hospital, staffing shortages are leading to burnout and also mean “there’s less eyes on the patient,” said nurse Francine Frezghi, president of the union local.

“People are going to suffer, our patients are going to suffer in care,” she said.

Temple University Health System said in a written statement that it has hired hundreds of nurses since spring and has a good supply of equipment and personal protective gear.

“Temple University Hospital is systematically reviewing our staffing and resources on a daily basis to effectively manage this surge across our health system,” the health system said.

Pennsylvania is averaging 6,800 new virus cases per day, up 23% in two weeks, according to an AP analysis of data from The COVID Tracking Project. The state shattered its single-day record on Thursday, reporting 11,406 new cases.

Deaths in Pennsylvania have more than doubled since Nov. 18 to an average of 94 per day.