ST PAUL, Minn. — You might have heard that Minnesota hospitals are struggling to care for patients of all types right now, and that COVID-19 hospitalizations are again reaching points that we haven't seen since last December's surge. But even at its worst last year, the state's hospitals often had a safety valve — the Critical Care Command Center.
C4, as it's called, monitored capacity at hospitals statewide, and usually found a bed for a patient when a provider couldn't. From Nov. 2 to Dec. 2 last year, of the 326 ICU requests received, C4 managed 256 placements for an 82% success rate.
Now things are so tight, that for many, an answer never came.
From mid-September to yesterday, there were 417 ICU requests and C4 could only find 104 placements. That's just a 28% success rate.
"We are full. The system is full. We are stretched and we are stressed. It's like being on a treadmill for 19 months that just sped up," Minnesota Hospital Association President and CEO Rahul Koranne said.
Koranne says, at its worst last winter, availability of adult hospital beds fell to about 9%. We hit that this year around the beginning of September, and it's steadily fallen since — to an average of 6.5%.
But he says that drop in beds isn't really about more people filling them, it's about fewer people staffing them.
"What we don't have right now is enough supply, is adequately trained nurses and physicians and clinicians that are trained in taking care of sick patients and ICU patients," Koranne said. "That is what is causing the crisis and causing constraints, and real constraints, across the state on our care capacity."
Koranne says hospitals have already begun suspending some procedures again.
"We started canceling some non-sensitive surgeries weeks ago, and you know, that's hard," he said. "So, it's not if we will do it. We're doing it now."
He says they're also trying to attract more out-of-state nurses and asking nursing and medical boards to speed up their process to get nurses in place faster.
But he says they also need our help.
"If you're eligible for a vaccine, get it now," he said. "If you're eligible for a booster get it now. But please do social distancing. Please follow what the Department of Health is saying."
He added, "Let's stop the spread of COVID."
Koranne says they're also seeing more patients with conditions other than COVID. So, for people with chronic conditions, it's also really important not to delay care and clinical visits because that will only increase the likelihood of an emergency or hospital stay.