Governor Dunleavy Said There Wouldn't Be Enough Hospital Beds – Now His Fears Are Coming True

 Worst Fears Coming True Alaska's Few Hospitals Are Filling Up With Patients As COVID-19 Rages On  Anchorage Press Publishes Story Abou...

 Worst Fears Coming True

Alaska's Few Hospitals Are Filling Up With Patients As COVID-19 Rages On 


Anchorage Press Publishes Story About Mat-Su Emergency Center And Anchorage Hospital Shortages

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What Happens When Staff Get Sick And There Are More Patients Than Beds? 

When Rose and Lonnie Tyone of Gulkana contracted coronavirus in July, they had one good thing going for them. They could get into the hospital in Anchorage. The number of people who had the virus in Alaska at that time was low enough that it didn't overtop the capacity of the state's hospitals. Both of the Tyones could be medevaced out of the region, and could find excellent hospital care at Alaska Native Medical Center, a major hospital.

That was a good thing, because there are no hospitals in the Copper River Valley.

But what if Rose and Lonnie had gotten ill a month or so from now? We still won't have a hospital here in the valley. And the number of people getting sick in the region is steadily growing. 

If they had gotten sick in the upcoming month of January, would Rose and Lonnie even have had access to hospital care in Anchorage if they needed it? It's a disturbing question. Hospitals in Alaska are getting slammed by the virus – as are hospitals all over America. They're filling up. Their staff is coming down sick, too. And the hospitals are speaking out, trying to get the public to be careful not to get sick in the first place.

Alaska is especially vulnerable. Our resources are limited. 

Hospitalization numbers in Alaska have been rising precipitously. People all over the state are getting sicker at a much faster rate than in the past. In the week ending November 13th, CRNA reported that 26 people – between 3 and 4 people every single day – came down with the coronavirus in our region. This pushed the total number of COVID-19 patients locally to at least 125 known cases, many times more than either Cordova or Valdez.  In our region, numbers are accelerating. The virus has been with us in Alaska since early spring, but a sizable amount, a fifth of all local cases for that whole time, popped up just last week.

On November 13th, Alaska Public Media ran a story in which they interviewed Alaska's large hospitals in Southcentral to see how they were coping. The hospitals said they were having problems keeping enough trained medical staff on board. They are having problems finding staff who are not sick themselves with COVID.

The hospitals are not doing well. At Providence, 80 to 100 workers are not working in mid-November due to coronavirus-related issues. This is double the usual absentee rate. Worse, anticipating a sudden death increase, Providence has brought in a refrigerated trailer truck – to be used as a temporary morgue out in their parking lot. Many of us saw these refrigerated trailers on TV news this spring. They were used in New York City when New York was battling a major COVID surge.

Meanwhile, Alaska Regional has reported a large number of employees testing positive in the past weeks. Alaska Native Medical Center (ANMC), where Rose and Lonnie Tyone went when they were sick, has been adding special hospital wings and beds. To help, the Indian Health Service is bringing up 14 more health care staff to Anchorage, Alaska Public Media reported. 

But the administrator at ANMC was not hopeful. "We will do the best we can, but if spread continues at this rate there's no way we'll be able to staff enough hospital beds," Dr. Bob Onders told Alaska Public Media. 

In just the past few days, Republican Governor Mike Dunleavy urged Alaskans to cooperate in doing the things that needed to be done to keep COVID-19 numbers low. 

One of the Governor's main concerns? The dangers of overrunning the hospitals of Alaska.


 


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