ANCHORAGE, ALASKA (AP) – Alaska on Wednesday reported its highest number of new COVID-19 cases, a day after the state’s largest hospital announced it had entered crisis protocol and started rationing care.
There were 1,068 new cases of COVID-19, with case counts 13 higher than last week.
State officials said 201 Alaskans required hospitalisation for COVID-19, and 34 of them were on ventilators in a state with limited healthcare capacity.
“Our hospitals have been and continue to be incredibly stressed,” the state’s chief medical officer Dr Anne Zink said on a conference call.
“There is no capacity in the hospitals to care for both COVID and non-COVID patients on a
Statewide, there are about 1,100 non-intensive care unit hospital beds, with only 302 available on Wednesday. The state has only 21 of its 125 ICU beds open.
When many people become ill at the same time, it overwhelms the state’s healthcare system.
“And then we start to see excess mortality where more people dying from other things such as heart attacks and strokes and car accidents and bear maulings or whatever else happens,” Zink said.
When announcing its crisis care protocol on Tuesday, Providence Alaska Medical Centre in Anchorage said it would prioritise care to those who have the best potential to benefit most.
Staff at the hospital, one of three in the state’s largest city, are stretched thin, leaving people to wait for hours in their cars to see a doctor in case of an emergency.
President and CEO of the Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association Jared Kosin said the Providence announcement conveys how bad the situation is.
“We certainly from the hospital world have been talking about this and the grave circumstances and direction we’re headed.
“To now be here is really hard to make sense of it when it is all preventable,” he said. “All it takes is a vaccine.”
It’s also troublesome that rationing of care is happening now. Providence officials in their announcement said they expected COVID-19 hospitalisations to escalate over the next two to four weeks.
“If this doesn’t put everyone on high alert, I don’t know what else it’s going to take,” Kosin said.
The ramifications are statewide; rural hospitals usually send their most critical patients to Anchorage for care.
But with the system strained, they have to look elsewhere.