Alaska’s largest hospital implements crisis care standards
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Overwhelmed by a surge in COVID-19 patients, Alaska’s largest hospital on Tuesday implemented crisis standards of care, prioritizing resources and treatments to those patients who have the potential to benefit the most.
” While we are doing everything we can, we are unable to provide the standard care to every patient who requires our help,” Dr. Kristen Solana Walkinshaw (chief of staff at Providence Alaska Medical Center) wrote Tuesday in a letter to Alaskans.
” The acuity of the patients and their number exceed our resources. We are unable to provide skilled caregivers such as nurses and respiratory therapists. Walkinshaw stated that we were forced to adopt crisis care standards at our hospital.
Alaska has experienced a rise in coronavirus-related cases, similar to other areas. According to state health officials, Tuesday saw six deaths and 691 more cases. The Anchorage men were all aged from 50s through 70s.
Health officials said statewide that there are 202 patients diagnosed with COVID-19 who are hospitalized, and nine additional patients are under investigation. Officials stated 33 that these patients are currently on ventilators.
The percentage of patients currently hospitalized with COVID-19 is 17.5%, the state reported.
In Providence, more than 30% adult patients who are admitted have been tested positive. This happens at an otherwise busy time for Alaska hospitals.
Walkinshaw noted that the state’s COVID-19 dashboard, which is routinely updated with numbers related to the virus, “isn’t equipped or designed to demonstrate the intricacies of providing medical care during this unprecedented time.”
At Providence, one of only three hospitals in a city of about 300,000 residents, officials have developed and enacted procedures to ration medical care and treatments, including dialysis and specialized ventilatory support. The emergency room at Providence is overflowing and patients are waiting for hours to see a doctor.
Walkinshaw pointed out that the Anchorage hospitals’ actions have a ripple effect on the state, as specialty care is often limited to the largest city in the state.
“Unfortunately, we are unable to continue to meet this need; we no longer have the staff, the space, or the beds,” Walkinshaw wrote. “Due to this shortage, we are not able to provide lifesaving healthcare to everyone who requires it This has led to patients in the state being held hostage at local hospitals because Providence won’t take them for transfer.
” If you or someone you love needs specialty care at Providence such as a cardiologist or trauma surgeon or a neurosurgeon we may not be able to accommodate them. She wrote that there are no more beds available.
Walkinshaw said they expect an increase in COVID-19 cases in the next two to four weeks, causing an already stressful situation to possibly “rapidly progress to a catastrophe,” she said.
She stated that vaccination is the most important thing people could do. Alaska was the first state in the country to offer vaccinations to all residents. 56.5% have been vaccinated as of Monday.
Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy, a Republican who has recovered from COVID-19 and been vaccinated, said employees at Alaska hospitals are working long hours, some have left their jobs and there are capacity concerns.
Dunleavy has been criticized for not urging a mandatory statewide vaccination mandate.
“I strongly urge people to get a vaccine. I hope you guys will print it,” he said to reporters Tuesday.
Walkinshaw asked that everyone wear masks even if they have been vaccinated, and refrain from unmasked activities. She also asked that anyone who is ill or has been exposed get tested. People should avoid any potentially dangerous activities and situations that could increase the need to seek emergency medical attention.
“Unfortunately, if you are seriously injured, it is possible that there will not be a bed available at our trauma center to save your life,” Walkinshaw wrote.
Associated Press journalist Becky Bohrer contributed to this report from Juneau, Alaska.