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News > U.S.

Overburdened, Many US Hospitals Forced to Ration Patient Care

  • COVID-19 cases are surging in U.S. states like Alaska, overwhelming the territory's hospital system.

    COVID-19 cases are surging in U.S. states like Alaska, overwhelming the territory's hospital system. | Photo: Twitter/@BeatsSaleGoogle

Published 27 September 2021
Opinion

Patients with COVID-19 are putting U.S. hospitals to the test today, especially in the Western part of the country, with many of them forced to ration care in the face of their overflowing capacities.

In the midst of stressful situations because healthcare centers are almost at their limit, some places are trying to determine who will have the best chance of surviving or not, according to local press reports.

The Hill reported that last week Alaska joined Idaho in adopting state rules on how to allocate limited resources in this context.

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Several Montana hospitals also activated crisis care standards or are considering it as the state experiences a notable increase in COVID-19 cases.

Under the guidelines, health care providers can prioritize treatment of patients based on their chances of recovery, which affects anyone seeking emergency care, not just COVID-19 patients, local media reported.

"Ultimately, at that point it comes down to a decision about who we think is most likely to benefit from what may be a limited resource," said Michael Bernstein, regional medical director in Alaska for Providence Health Care System.

Crisis care standards of care were established with some sort of scoring to determine a patient's survivability, which sometimes includes their estimated "years to live" and organ functioning, The Hill reported.

As of last Friday, intensive care units in Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky and Texas were over 90 percent of capacity.

Those in Alaska and Montana, meanwhile, were at 84 percent and 77 percent, respectively, according to federal data.

Parallel to this, the health care sector is taking a hit of a different kind, as many hospitals across the country began to experience staffing shortages with signs of attrition increasingly evident.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States has recorded more than 43,756,700 infections and some 706,400 deaths, making it the country with the worst figures worldwide.

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