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December 14, 2021

Minnesota hospitals: 'We're heartbroken. We're overwhelmed.'

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    Covid-19 hospitalizations are surging nationwide, with 65,000 patients receiving care as of Thursday—an increase of 20,000 compared with last month. As a result, many hospitals are once again at or nearing capacity.

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    Covid-19 hospitalizations surge at Mayo Clinic

    Mayo Clinic hospitals in the Midwest are seeing surges of Covid-19 patients. According to a spokesperson, the Clinic's hospitals "have been operating at or near capacity for months, and over the past week, we have seen increases in the number of Covid-19 patients needing care and that number is expected to remain elevated." 

    For example, the Rochester campus "has been treating approximately 100 patients with Covid-19 on a daily basis, some of the highest levels of Covid-19 patients we have seen in Rochester throughout the pandemic," the spokesperson said.

    In response to the surge, a coalition of Minnesota hospitals took out an ad in the Star Tribune asking residents to get vaccinated and boosted, saying, "We're heartbroken. We're overwhelmed."


    In Michigan, 4,630 people were hospitalized with Covid-19 or suspected Covid-19 as of Wednesday, more than at any other point in the pandemic, Crain's Detroit Business reports. Patients with Covid-19 account for 21.5% of all hospital beds in the state—also a record high for the pandemic, Crain's reports.

    According to Elizabeth Hertel, director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, three teams of 22 physicians from the Department of Defense have been sent to Beaumont Hospital-Dearborn, Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids, and Covenant Healthcare in Saginaw, but there is no other federal help available.

    "We do not have an unlimited number of health care providers in this state and this country," Hertel said. "There are no additional federal resources available."

    In response to the surge, Michigan Medicine canceled 40 surgeries through Wednesday this week so staff could care for more Covid-19 patients, according to David Miller, physician and president of the University of Michigan Health System.

    The surge, combined with a labor shortage of at least 400 unfilled positions in the health system, has also led Michigan Medicine to close critical care beds in its pediatric hospital.

    "Patients who don't receive timely surgery are dying," said Marschall Runge, CEO of Michigan Medicine. "[The unvaccinated] are risking the lives of others who may die from preventable diseases who can't get their health care." 


    In Pennsylvania, Covid-19 cases are averaging about 7,000 per day, and the state has over 4,000 patients hospitalized with Covid-19. As a result, many hospitals in the state are reaching capacity.

    "The health care system in Pennsylvania is at the brink of collapse," said Gerald Maloney, CMO of Geisinger Health System.

    According to Geisinger, beds are running out in its nine hospitals around the state. "People continue to come with strokes, heart attacks, car accidents, and it is hard to get them out of the ambulance because we don't have a place in the [ED] to put them," Maloney said.


    Meanwhile, in Wisconsin, fewer than 3% of ICU beds were available throughout the state, as of Thursday. In five regions of Wisconsin, just three or fewer ICU beds were available, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.

    On Wednesday, Gov. Tony Evers (D) of Wisconsin said he would request 100 health care workers from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help with staffing shortages amid a surge in Covid-19 cases, in addition to 60 National Guard nurses. As of Thursday, over 1,600 people in his state were hospitalized with Covid-19, a 76% increase since Nov. 1.


    Members of the National Guard are also providing staff support in 13 hospitals in Indiana and "several others" are expected to join this week, according to officials from the Indiana Department of Health.

    Officials at IU Health said their hospitals are seeing "all-time highs" of Covid-19 patients as well as non-Covid-19 patients. On Wednesday, 2,755 patients in Indiana were hospitalized with Covid-19, more than at any other point during the delta surge.

    According to Paul Calkins, associate CMO at IU Health, around 430 people are hospitalized with Covid-19 in IU Health facilities, which represents an increase of around 65 patients over the past week. Most of those patients are unvaccinated, Calkins said.


    Covid-19 cases are also increasing at the University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System (UI Health). "We are definitely seeing an uptick," said Janet Lin, an emergency medicine physician at the health system.

    As of Thursday, there were 31 Covid-19 patients, up from 29 the day before, and roughly a third of those patients are in the ICU, MedPage Today reports. "These are trending toward numbers we have not seen since 2020," Lin said.

    Over the past month, Advocate Aurora Health has seen Covid-19 inpatient numbers more than double, a spokesperson said. Currently, there are around 730 Covid-19 patients hospitalized in the health system.

    "Beds are very tight, and the situation is complicated by workforce shortages impacting many industries across the nation," the Advocate spokesperson said. "Despite the challenges, we have the flexibility as an integrated health system to move around resources, including staff, equipment, and supplies, when and where needed." (Walsh, Crain's Detroit Business, 12/10; Hall, 6ABC, 12/10; Carson, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 12/9; Rudavsky, Indianapolis Star, 12/9; Henderson, MedPage Today, 12/9)

    Editor's note: An earlier version of this story indicated that Mayo Clinic had taken out an ad in the Star Tribune. The ad was taken out by a coalition of nine Minnesota hospitals, including Mayo Clinic.

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