Omicron Surge Pushing US Healthcare System to the Limit
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Two years of the COVID-19 outbreak had left the U.S. healthcare industry stretched thin. The Omicron variant was the latest to strike. As hospitals are filled with patients experts and workers suggest the impact on the industry could be lasting.
“It has been exploding. We’re in a crisis, red-tier situation again,” Denise Duncan, registered nurse and president of the United Nurses Associations of California/Union of Health Care Professionals she told NBC News.
Doctors and other health professionals are exhausted and constantly have the risk of being infected. Some are quitting their jobs or changing their career which is causing staff shortages at already overburdened hospitals.
According to NBC News, “Everyone is retiring, particularly nurses, and many more doctors are retiring,” a Pennsylvania doctor who would not be identified spoke to NBC News. “I’m returning to the hospitalist fellowship because as a hospitalist, everything is your responsibility and when patients arrive and you take care of everything, but they still die, it’s very frustrating and then you need explain it to families.”
A record 1.34 million COVID cases were reported across the United States on Monday, and the average for the seven-day period was higher than 740,000. Twenty-four states posted record daily averages for seven days, NBC News said. With the rise in case numbers, hospitalizations have increased.
The health care system was already under stress prior to the Omicron increase. A report released in October of 2020 by the company that provides data intelligence Morning Consult stated that 18% of health care workers quit their jobs during the pandemic and another 12 percent were laid off. Among workers who kept their jobs 31% of them had considered leaving.
“Massive turnover of healthcare professionals and lengthy recruitment cycles and a growing competition from the industry for talent are crippling acquisition and retention in the health care workforce,” the research firm Forrester stated in its “Predictions 2022 Healthcare” report, NBC News reported. These issues will be further exacerbated by the low uptake of Covid-19 vaccines in certain populations, unrelenting stress post-traumatic stress , and staff burnout.
NBC News reported that some hospitals offer hazard pay to draw staff or turn to nurses from overseas or travel nurses. The Pennsylvania doctor claimed to have known doctors who were being offered $325 per hour to work in overcrowded hospitals.
However hospitals’ bottom line is affected by the expense of paying employees more. The Forrester report said that half of hospitals could be operating with negative margins at the end of 2021.
NBC News: Omicron is creating an emergency red-tier situation in health care.
Morning Consult: “Nearly 1 in 5 Health Care Workers Have Quit Their Jobs during the Pandemic.”