Ray DeMonia earlier this month died of a cardiac event after 43 hospitals across three states lacked the capacity to accept him. DeMonia was ultimately sent 200 miles away for care, highlighting the strain hospitals across the country are facing amidst surges of Covid-19 patients.
Turned away from 43 hospitals
On Aug. 23, DeMonia experienced heart problems and was taken to Cullman Regional Hospital in Cullman, Ala. But according to Jennifer Malone, a spokeswoman for the hospital, "the level of care he required was not available at Cullman Regional."
So the hospital tried to transfer him to 43 hospitals in three states, but all were unable to find him a specialized cardiac ICU bed.
Malone said these situations have become an "ongoing problem" reported by doctors at the hospital and other providers throughout the state amid an intense surge in Covid-19 hospitalizations.
Eventually, they found a bed at Rush Foundation Hospital in Meridian, Miss.—200 miles away. DeMonia was airlifted to Rush Foundation, where his daughter said he received "wonderful" care.
However, the next week, DeMonia died. DeMonia's daughter said she hopes her father's story will serve as a warning to people so they don't have to experience what her family did.
"Dad would just want everything to get back to normal," she said. "If people would just realize the strain on hospital resources that's happening right now, then that would be really amazing. But I don't know if that'll ever happen."
In DeMonia's obituary, his family is urging the unvaccinated to reconsider immunization, as hospitals struggle to balance unvaccinated Covid-19 patients and other routine care. "In honor of Ray, please get vaccinated if you have not, in an effort to free up resources for non-Covid related emergencies," the family wrote. "He would not want any other family to go through what his did."
Hospitals delay surgeries to attempt to manage Covid-19 surges
As of Thursday, Alabama had 60 more ICU patients than beds, and 51% of those patients have Covid-19. But Alabama isn't the only state where hospitals are strained.
MaineHealth in Portland, Maine, announced it is postponing some elective surgeries in 12 of its hospitals as the state saw its intensive care census hit a record high since the start of the pandemic. Indiana University Health has also started delaying elective inpatient surgeries.
In Utah, Intermountain Healthcare will delay nearly all "urgent but not immediately life threatening" surgeries beginning Sept. 15. According to CEO Marc Harrison, the ICUs at Intermountain have all exceeded capacity, and around half the beds are occupied by Covid-19 patients, 87% of them unvaccinated.
Meanwhile, Colorado now has fewer ICU beds available than at any other point during the pandemic, according to Scott Bookman, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment's Covid-19 incident commander.
"I cannot stress enough the state that our hospitals are currently in today—the stress they are feeling, the impact that this wave is having on them, and the absolute importance of getting vaccinated to end this pandemic," Bookman said.
The ICU utilization rate in Larimer County, Colo. hit a record of 110% last week, the Coloradoan reports, surpassing its previous peak of 97% on Jan. 5. And ICU beds at Banner Health's Northern Colorado hospitals reached 95% capacity as of Friday, with about 20% of the patients in the hospital system's area hospitalized with Covid-19, according to Sara Quale, a spokesperson for the hospital.
Michigan is also reporting hospitals operating at or near capacity due to surges in Covid-19 patients. While the number of hospitalizations in the state have decreased since April, staffing shortages are causing strains on hospitals, according to Brian Peters, CEO of the Michigan Health & Hospital Association.
"Our staffing is stressed to a level that we have not seen previously," he said. "One of the ways to prevent that is to get the vaccine. There's just no question."
Idaho looks to its neighboring state for help
Meanwhile in Idaho, more than 600 patients have been hospitalized with Covid-19, a rate about 20% higher than the state's previous peak in December, the New York Times reports. As a result, some hospitals in Idaho have started rationing care and transferring patients to hospitals in Washington state.
"As they've seen increasing Covid volumes, we've seen increasing calls for help from all over northern Idaho," Daniel Getz, CMO at Providence Sacred Heart, said.
As a result of surges in Covid-19 patients, Getz said the hospital has started canceling elective procedures, including some to excise brain tumors and treat orthopedic injuries.
"We are delaying care for people who are in misery," Getz said. "It's agonizing for those patients. This has real impacts on these people who are waiting." (Hitson, Montgomery Advertiser/USA Today, 9/10; Bella, Washington Post, 9/12; Ingold, Colorado Sun, 9/10; Udell, Fort Collins Coloradoan, 9/11; AP/Modern Healthcare, 9/9; Baker, New York Times, 9/13; Bannow, Modern Healthcare, 9/10)