Stressed local hospital systems face severe staffing shortages, UnityPoint Health temporarily halts elective procedures

Patient in a hospital bed
Patient in a hospital bed(MGN)
Published: Jan. 5, 2022 at 6:56 PM CST
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PEORIA (25 NEWS) - Non-emergency surgeries are on hold at UnityPoint Health amid a record number of COVID hospitalizations, while neighboring OSF HealthCare is temporarily delaying some elective procedures.

UnityPoint is pausing non-essential surgeries, like knee replacements, to ensure the hospital can handle emergencies and protect its staff from further burnout, said Dr. Samer Sader, UnityPoint’s chief medical officer for the Peoria region.

“We want to care for people, that’s still part of our DNA... but people are fatigued. Human our biggest need and our biggest constraint today,” said Sader.

In a statement, UnityPoint said providers and leadership will “continue to monitor this situation on a weekly basis and reassess the capacity for the following week’s procedures.”

OSF HealthCare said in a statement that surgical staff and care reams are reviewing each patient’s needs on a case-by-case basis to help alleviate strain on staffing levels and bed capacity.

“We closely follow the American College of Surgeons guidance in deciding what types of non-emergent patients can safely have their procedure or surgery paused. At this time, some procedures have been temporarily delayed as appropriate,” OSF said.

“We join with the governor and the state public health director in urging people to get vaccinated and boosted, wear a mask, carefully consider how and when you gather, wash your hands and keep your distance in public places.” OSF also said.

Staffing is UnityPoint’s biggest challenge right now, offering bonuses to fill certain shifts.

Hospital leaders said they are down as much as 50% from what staffing should be. Overworked healthcare workers are treating very sick patients as the Omicron variant continues to spread, with staffers among those who have become ill.

Dr. Sader said his staffers are exhausted.

“If I could magically hire 100 nurses, respiratory technicians, and CNA’s, 2 to 300 maybe, I would happily do so,” said Sader.

He said UnityPoint is hiring temporary help and traveling healthcare workers.

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