A top official at North Dakota’s largest health care system said his hospitals do not have the staff to handle the growing number of COVID-19 cases.
“We’re really in crisis,” Doug Griffin, vice president and physician at Sanford Health in Fargo, said during a recent briefing with the local press.
“It’s really about staffing. We often call staff and offer large amounts of incentives to work extra. … We think it’s the most horrible staffing situation we’ve ever faced,” Griffin said.
Griffin said his hospital hired at least 150 travel or contract nurses from other areas and could “easily take” 200 to 300 more to be fully staffed.
Deficiency, which he mostly attributes to burnout, goes beyond nurses and extends to patient services, respiratory care and even “people who draw blood.”
“At some point, even extra money is not necessarily enough to make people want to work extra. They also have to live their lives,” Griffin said.
During the COVID-19 climb in the fall of 2020, “it was our Super Bowl,” Griffin said, and staff stood up to accommodate the apartment and worked long hours to save patients’ lives. As the vaccines began to roll out, he said staff thought those days were over.
“When you see it again, it brings back painful memories. There is a great level of frustration. Most of these people are unvaccinated … I think many of the staff feel that this could have been prevented. We did not have to to be that there, “Griffin said.
Griffin said Fargo is still about two to three weeks away from the major coronavirus cases, but Sanford’s hospitals have been in capacity for several weeks due to both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients.
Sanford’s Fargo Hospital reduces surgical capacity by 30 percent in response. Doctors, in consultation with their patients, make the ultimate decisions about which procedures to delay, but “it could be your knee replacement, your bridge surgery, even your scheduled heart surgery.”
All manned ICU beds are full, Griffin said. The average age of hospitalization, including critical care, has dropped to the 50s, Griffin said, and 90 percent of people admitted with COVID-19 are unvaccinated.
Griffin also lamented the region’s low vaccination rate, saying the state’s practical approach to begging people to get vaccinated does not work.
“We still have a fixed number of people who are anchored and who do not want to receive the vaccine,” Griffin said.