Burgum: North Dakota hospitals are at tipping point, doctor says ‘chaos’ inside
BISMARCK, N.D. (KVRR) – Gov. Doug Burgum and doctors from several of the state’s largest hospitals today warned that hospital capacity in North Dakota is reaching critical levels and urged the public to help reduce the need for hospitalization.
“The pressure on hospitals and clinics in both our urban and rural areas is reaching critical levels, and we all need to do our part to avoid hospitalization and prevent further strain on these facilities and their staff as we work through this incredibly challenging time,” Burgum said.
Dr. Richard Vetter, Chief Medical Officer at Essentia Health in Fargo, says North Dakota hospitals and health systems have seen a significant increase in acute health care needs over the past several months, and they anticipate this higher demand to continue for some time. Vetter says the additional demand has led to increased delays in access to care, particularly in emergency rooms and inpatient settings. Vetter adds Essentia Health is not turning anyone away from emergency rooms, but there are some challenges there.
“Sometimes means that they have to stay in our ERs longer than we would like. Sometimes hours or even up to a day or so until we can find a bed. I know that’s similar with other hospitals throughout the state have had the same issues. Housing seven to ten patients in the emergency room rather than having a hospital bed for them,” Vetter said.
Essentia Health Fargo has received patient transfer requests from as far away as Williston, Dickinson, Duluth and the Twin Cities.
“Right now, stepping into a hospital in North Dakota is like stepping into an alternate reality,” according to Dr. Joshua Ranum, vice president of the North Dakota Medical Association, a physician at West River Health Services in Hettinger.
“Our hospitals are at a redline capacity and will likely be that way for several more weeks. In stark contrast, one can move about the community almost normally, unaware of the chaos inside the hospital blocks away.”
The governor’s office says the North Dakota Department of Health added four ambulances to assist hospitals with the growing number of patient transfers. In addition to the weekly federal allocation of monoclonal antibodies, the state purchased 1,000 doses and is encouraging hospitals to do the same.
According to the governor’s office, medical officials suggest several ways the public can help reduce hospitalizations:
• Avoid dangerous or high-risk activities that could cause serious injury.
• See your primary physician regularly and take care of your chronic health conditions.
• Make sure vaccinations are current for you and your children.
• Wash hands, social distance and wear a mask to help against all respiratory viruses.
• If you are sick with any respiratory virus, stay home and isolate to avoid infecting others.
• Practice defensive driving. There have been many recent high-trauma vehicle accidents
in North Dakota. Obey traffic laws, use caution in construction zones, avoid distracted
driving, use seat belts and helmets, and don’t drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
• Consider a telehealth option if you aren’t feeling well.