LIMA — Lima hospital leaders on Thursday warned they may not have the capacity to withstand a post-Thanksgiving surge of coronavirus patients, as persistent staffing shortages and an incredibly high rate of newly diagnosed COVID-19 cases throughout the region have already forced hospitals here to postpone some elective surgeries and find alternative care settings for patients who aren’t quite ready to go home.
There are now roughly 105 COVID-19 patients in Lima hospitals, a slight decrease from last week’s peak but still cause for concern, chief medical officers for Mercy Health-St. Rita’s Medical Center and Lima Memorial Health System told The Lima News on Thursday.
That’s because the region’s community hospitals are now taking in a larger share of coronavirus patients to alleviate crowding in Lima. Some COVID-19 patients who no longer require acute care but are still recovering have been transferred from transitional care units to Shawnee Manor, which has its own COVID-19 isolation unit.
Persistent staffing shortages mean that elective surgeries are frequently rescheduled, and healthcare workers are now being redeployed to cover for colleagues who are out sick or in quarantine.
There are so many patients in intensive care units — about twice as many as Lima hospitals would normally see this time of year — that incoming patients may wait for hours or longer in the emergency department before an ICU bed is available.
High demand for drugs to treat seriously ill COVID-19 patients mean there are now reported shortages of dexamethasone IVs, and testing capacity is once again a concern as more and more people fall ill with the disease.
And roughly 30% to 40% of coronavirus tests performed by Lima hospitals are coming back positive, more than double the state’s test positivity rate.
The high prevalence of newly diagnosed coronavirus cases in the Lima region one week before Thanksgiving worries hospital leaders, who warn their facilities are already full and may not have the capacity to manage an even larger surge of new patients anticipated after the Thanksgiving holiday.
With more than 3,800 Ohioans now hospitalized with COVID-19 across the state — the highest patient count Ohio has reported since the start of the pandemic — there are fewer places to send critically ill patients, even those who suffer heart attacks or strokes.
Healthcare leaders and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which on Thursday issued a travel advisory for the Thanksgiving holiday, are pleading with the public to plan alternative celebrations like virtual dinners or drop-off meals.
“If that does not happen and we get another big surge, it’s just going to get more and more bleak,” said Dr. Dennis Morris, chief medical officer and vice president of medical affairs for Lima Memorial Health System.