CLEVELAND — As Summa Health reduces the hospital bed capacity at two of its campuses due to staffing shortages and burnout, other local hospital systems in our area are bracing for an expected influx of COVID-19 patients by reducing non-essential surgeries, as others are looking to fill dozens of open nursing and nurse assistant positions.
On Monday, Summa Health announced a 20% reduction in hospital beds at its Akron and Barberton campuses due to staffing shortages, which have caused significant strains on its system.
Along with that reduction comes several plans to mitigate its impact, including temporarily reducing nonessential surgeries, a step that the Cleveland Clinic is taking as well.
According to a news release sent Monday by Cleveland Clinic, it is experiencing the highest volume of COVID-19 patients since last winter, the majority of whom are unvaccinated. They say they currently have about 460 COVID-positive patients at their Ohio hospitals, with 135 of those in their ICUs. This is more than double the number of patients who were hospitalized with COVID one month ago.
Cleveland Clinic representatives expect this will only get worse in the coming weeks. They said their models predict the highest volumes of COVID-19 patients will come in the next several weeks as the wave peaks in Northeast Ohio.
The Cleveland Clinic did not specify which models it is using, but a model released on Sept. 8 from Case Western University's Center for Community Health Integration shows a potential scenario of nearly 3,000 cases per day in Cuyahoga County alone.
The latest non-preliminary data regarding case counts show about 500 cases per day in Cuyahoga County in mid-September. While it is not yet near the level predicted by CWRU's modeling, the daily case count is significantly higher than it was just a month ago.
“Healthcare is facing an increased demand for services, and like other hospitals across the country, our health system is also experiencing staffing challenges,” the Cleveland Clinic news release states.
As a result, the Clinic’s Akron General, Mercy Hospital and Union Hospital locations are scheduling fewer nonessential surgeries that require an inpatient stay. The hospital system has also had to move patients to different facilities as an increased demand for services, plus staffing shortages, have contributed to longer than expected wait times in emergency departments.
“Despite these challenges, we remain committed to meeting the needs of the communities we serve. Essential and urgent inpatient surgeries — including heart, cancer, pediatrics, transplantation and neurological cases — will continue as scheduled,” the Clinic said in a statement.
While MetroHealth did not explicitly tell News 5 that it is having staffing issues, it did say that as of August, there were close to 100 full-time nursing positions available and even more nurse assistant positions open.
“Right now, staffing is challenging due to an increased census and acuity, along with rising Covid numbers,” a MetroHealth representative stated to News 5.
In a statement to News 5, University Hospitals acknowledged the rising number of hospital and ICU beds being used in Northeast Ohio and stated that it currently has adequate staffing “to provide the best possible care for our patients,” and it has additional resources on standby if needed.
The latest data from the Ohio Department of Health show that in the regions that represent most of Northeast Ohio’s hospital systems, 26% of hospital beds and ICU beds are currently available, with COVID patients occupying 13% of hospital beds and 19% of ICU beds.
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