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Children's hospitals in Northeast Ohio preparing to take on adult patients as hospitalizations surge

Hospitals now facing shortage of caregivers
Posted at 4:35 PM, Dec 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-07 18:16:38-05

AKRON, Ohio — As the number of COVID-19 patients continues to surge, hospitals across Northeast Ohio are preparing for the next phase in plans to make sure the sick get the help they need. Some of those plans involve children's hospitals taking on adult patients.

"Is it as bad as they say," asked Dr. John Crow, Associate Chief Medical Officer at Akron Children's Hospital, "yes, and it could get much worse."

Crow chairs a committee set up to deal with the surge in hospital patients across 13 Northeast Ohio counties.

"When it comes to occupancy of hospitals, they're running between 85-95% and sometimes 100% full," said Crow.

Already, Crow said, some hospitals have begun sending patients to larger cities like Cleveland for treatment.

He said the problem isn't a shortage of beds or equipment, but a shortage of healthy caregivers to treat patients.

"These nurses, these doctors, these respiratory therapists, you can’t just train someone to become one of these in a week and so that’s where the big limit is," said Crow.

Faced with a possible surge in patients related to Thanksgiving gatherings, Crow said specialty and children's hospitals are preparing to start seeing adult patients to help handle the increase.

"It will be as short as 10 days," said Crow when asked about a potential timeline. "The whole state, we could be talking about it in the next two weeks."

So what will it mean for patients?

Crow said sending patients away from home could mean they won't get care from the doctors and specialists who know them best.

He also worries an overrun healthcare system could be forced to rely on worn-out workers forced into double-shifts.

"We are people too," said Crow. "And everybody taking care of you can make a mistake and miss some of the subtleties that you’re getting sicker, all the things that could mean your ultimate outcome could not be as well as if things weren’t in such crisis."

To help manage the surge, Crow said it's important that people not only continue wearing masks but also avoid gathering in groups this holiday season.