Concerned about staff shortages, area hospitals brace for COVID-19 surge

FARGO, N.D. (KVRR) – Area hospitals are bracing for a COVID-19 surge that will likely strain their resources. This comes at the heels of more patients than usual being seen for medical conditions not related to the coronavirus.

“We’ve been very busy the last two to three months with non-COVID cases, and so the rise in COVID cases is just adding additional patients on top of that already busy in-patient numbers,” said Essentia Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Richard Vetter.

Essentia Health is seeing more cases than usual of things like heart attacks, lung disease, and trauma injuries, Vetter said.

“Our biggest challenge has really been around staffing and making sure we have enough staff,” Vetter explained. “We do have some traveler nurses, as an example, that are in helping us meet the needs of our patients.”

With employee shortages and a high demand for non-coronavirus medical care, a COVID-19 surge is a big concern.

“Staffing is probably our biggest concern as we head into what we think is going to get much worse before it gets better,” said Sanford Health Fargo Vice President Dr. Doug Griffin.

Over the past couple of weeks, the hospital has been averaging between 20 to 25 coronavirus patients, Griffin said. “The vast, vast majority of patients are unvaccinated,” he explained.

Although all patients are tested for COVID, the hospital does not test for variants. “The state and the CDC both do surveillance on which variant it is and based on that surveillance, we think it’s pretty much 100% Delta variant,” Griffin said.

At Essentia Health, roughly 5 to 7% of hospital beds are occupied by COVID patients.

With schools opening back up and the Delta variant moving quickly, the numbers are on the rise. Griffin said, “We’re anticipating that we’ll see a significant rise in COVID cases within the next month.”

He says the hospital will likely have to move staff from their usual jobs to help care for COVID patients.

“This is a critical point. Please, please get the vaccine. This is not a personal health issue; this is a public health issue,” Griffin said.

One pediatric COVID patient has been admitted to Sanford Health. None have been admitted to Essentia Health.

Those with Fargo VA Health Care System say the hospital can adjust its capacity to accommodate a surge of COVID patients who require ambulatory or inpatient care.

Categories: Coronavirus, Health, Local News, North Dakota News