State leaders urge public to help reduce need for hospitalization: Citing hospitals are ‘at redline capacity’

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(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

Gov. Doug Burgum, chief medical officers, and physicians from several of North Dakota’s largest hospitals warned Friday afternoon, that hospital capacity in North Dakota is reaching critical levels.

In a press release from the governor’s office, medical officers noted a significant increase in “acute health care needs,” and anticipate even more demand as the flu season is right around the corner.

“The pressure on hospitals and clinics in both our urban and rural areas is reaching critical levels, and we all need to do our part to avoid hospitalization and prevent further strain on these facilities and their staff as we work through this incredibly challenging time,” Burgum said.

Dr. Richard Vetter, chief medical officer at Essentia Health in Fargo noted patients are being referred outside of their usual referral patterns – sometimes to facilities several hundred miles away.

As a result of an inability of regional centers to support critical access hospitals, “providers have seen adverse outcomes due to delays in care,” said Dr. Chris Meeker, chief medical officer at Sanford Bismarck.

Physicians say the current nationwide shortage of monoclonal antibodies is putting further strain on hospital capacity, and perhaps the biggest challenge hospitals face statewide is staffing shortages.

“[On Friday] North Dakota’s six largest hospitals reported 43 patients were deflected to other facilities, including six psychiatric patients; and 29 patients were waiting in emergency departments to be admitted to the hospital,” said Dr. Chris Meeker, chief medical officer at Sanford Bismarck.

To address the staffing shortage in health care facilities, State Health Officer Dr. Nizar Wehbi extended the waiver for temporary nurse aid registration in North Dakota through Dec. 31, 2021.

Medical officials suggest several ways the public can help reduce hospitalizations:

  • Avoid dangerous or high-risk activities that could cause serious injury.
  • See your primary physician regularly and take care of your chronic health conditions.
  • Make sure vaccinations are current for you and your children.
  • Wash hands, social distance and wear a mask to help against all respiratory viruses.
  • If you are sick with any respiratory virus, stay home and isolate to avoid infecting others.
  • Practice defensive driving. There have been many recent high-trauma vehicle accidents in North Dakota. Obey traffic laws, use caution in construction zones, avoid distracted driving, use seat belts and helmets, and don’t drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Consider a telehealth option if you aren’t feeling well.

State leaders are working closely with hospital leaders to understand and support hospital capacity challenges. Read the full press release by clicking here.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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