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Summa reducing beds by over 20% at Akron and Barberton campuses due to staffing shortages, burnout

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Posted at 10:00 AM, Sep 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-27 19:49:45-04

AKRON, Ohio — Summa Health announced it will reduce hospital bed capacity by 20% at both its Akron and Barberton campuses due to staffing shortages and burnout during the coronavirus pandemic, the hospital said in a letter Monday.

The hospital said that it is no longer able to maintain the current level of capacity in its hospitals, and as a way to avoid long-term service closures, the combined inpatient bed capacity in the Akron and Barberton campuses will be reduced from 551 today to approximately 430 by October 24.

This is a reduction of slightly more than 20% of the available number of beds. The hospital said the current number of beds on the Akron campus will change from 439 to approximately 350. At the Barberton campus, the number of available beds will change from 112 to approximately 80.

Summa Health said staffing shortages have caused a "significant strain" to its system.

Making these past several months even more difficult is the ongoing staffing shortage that is being felt not only at Summa, but at healthcare organizations across the nation. This has caused a significant strain on our system, with the need for capacity far outweighing the ability to provide appropriate care to the community. There are a variety of factors that go into this. There is a nationwide shortage of clinical staff and other support positions. Burnout has caused many to leave the healthcare field. And there simply aren’t enough people entering the industry to overcome the gaps at any time in the near future.

This is all happening at a time when we are seeing more and more people, often critically ill, coming through our doors. And while there is no question that COVID is having an impact on our volumes, the reality is, it is not the only driver of the current staffing issues that we face. We will continue to work with our employees and community to promote the importance of vaccinations, masking and other safety precautions to prevent and reduce spread of the virus. But with COVID surges exacerbating the inpatient capacity situation in our hospitals, we must make changes to ensure that we can provide safe and comprehensive healthcare services across all settings – inpatient and outpatient – for our community and we must support and resource our employees and teams appropriately to do so.

Other adjustments made to align with the current level of clinical staff include:

Improve throughput in the Emergency Departments:

a. Embed specialists, primary care physicians and/or hospitalists in the EDs on the Akron and Barberton Campuses to initiate care more efficiently.
b. Optimize monoclonal antibody treatments to improve efficiency and potentially eliminate or reduce hospital stays.
c. Work with skilled nursing facilities to enhance patient navigation.

Improve throughput in hospitals:

a. While we adjust to our new available capacity over the next few weeks, temporarily stop some elective procedures in the areas of surgery, cardiology and interventional radiology. This decision does not impact cancer-related procedures or any of our emergency services across the organization, including procedures to preserve life and limb. Ambulatory surgery sites will remain open.
b. Schedule surgeries seven days a week to help moderate daily case volumes.
c. Develop a Standby Patient Program to accommodate elective surgery cases.
d. Develop a remote monitoring home care solution to allow patients to recover with at home care if appropriate.

In the letter addressed to employees, physicians and boards and committees, Summa said there will be a disruption during the next three to four weeks as the changes are implemented.

We recognize there is no quick fix to the current situation and that it will take considerable time to build back up to our full capacity. We feel strongly, however, the steps outlined above are necessary now and in the best interests of our staff and community.

We know taking the steps outlined above will not change the number of people who come to us seeking care. We will treat as many patients as possible, however, there will be times when we will need to divert or transfer patients to other facilities where beds are available. In the event the community has no beds available, we will do everything possible to minimize the amount of time we need to board patients in the emergency department waiting for one to become available. We also plan to work closely with the health department for surge planning and with our community partners to help manage patient volumes, all in the best interests of protecting our employees and patients.

There will be disruption during the next three to four weeks as we work to achieve this plan. We know we’ve asked a lot of you during the past several months and we appreciate your continued support during this time. Ultimately, we are confident that making these modifications is the right thing to do and will significantly benefit our employees and the people we serve.”

Recently, Summa Health has been met with criticism over its vaccination policy for doctors and staff.

Summa Health’s vaccine policy states that all employees must be vaccinated by the end of October or face discipline, including termination.

Earlier this month, Ohio Hospital Association recommended hospitals require vaccination for all staff.

RELATED: 'No Jab, No Job': Hundreds protest in front of Summa Health against its vaccine mandate policy

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