N.D. governor joins hospitals in call for vaccines amid health care system strains

Published: Sep. 1, 2021 at 4:36 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - COVID hospitalizations are on the rise, and someone needs to fill worker gaps.

The problem facing North Dakota networks is that there are fewer workers to help compared to last year.

As part of a briefing with Gov. Doug Burgum, R-N.D., health leaders went public with what they’re seeing in their units.

Hospitalizations are at their highest points since the winter, and medical professionals say the trend is not slowing down.

Health leaders are looking at the trends and are calling it an epidemic of the young and unvaccinated.

According to the North Dakota Department of Health, one in 16 unvaccinated people are testing positive for some form of COVID-19, compared to the one in 180 for vaccinated people.

And those odds hold up in hospital wards, and that pressure is being passed on to the workers.

“Our frontline staff bear the brunt of these and when we make these decisions, they’re the ones that carry the water for us. Example is we have about 500 additional shifts that have been picked up over the last week. That’s personal sacrifice that our frontline staff makes,” said outgoing CEO of Sanford Bismarck Dr. Michael LeBeau.

Networks say with less staff compared to the last surge, they have been postponing elective procedures.

“it’s not just flip a switch and you’re no longer doing surgery. There are some things that are critical and have to be done, but starting to triage what’s being done. And the potential is out there too. Do you take a look at clinics again and do you start shutting down some clinics and shifting from routine care?” said Dr. Jeffery Sather, Chief of Medical Staff, Trinity Health.

Sather added that his units are getting calls regularly asking if they can take patients, but he has to tell them they don’t have room for them.

An echo of 2020.

Networks say the average age of COVID patients has dropped into the 50′s, meaning it’s younger people going to hospitals.

Kids are also coming in sick with other illnesses, which is putting even more pressure on the limited pediatric ICU’s available across the state.

North Dakota, like many parts of the country, continues to have shortages in hospital capacity.

Burgum is putting the blame on the summer spike in COVID-19 cases.

Earlier today, Burgum joined state health leaders to what he referred to as a “readiness call” to the public.

Similar to his handling of COVID last year, Burgum is taking the “individually responsibility” route, and asking more North Dakotans to get the vaccine. According to the department of health, 77.2% of North Dakotans aged 65+ are vaccinated. But for anyone eligible, it’s 52%.

That’s in the bottom 10 states nationwide.

The 14-day rolling positive rate is 6.5%, which is higher than this time last year, and climbing faster than last year. Burgum blames the higher contagion associated with the delta variant and pleaded to the public to do what they can to bring the rates down.

“Folks have a choice. They can choose to be vaccinated or they can choose not to be. With the spread of COVID, choosing not to be vaccinated is also perhaps a choice that at some point, you’re going to get COVID. And we know that COVID is evolving. We know that COVID for some people results in serious illness and even mortality. And so, again it’s not about what government says. It’s about what people do,” Burgum said.

Other states are having to open field hospitals. Burgum said there are no plans to establish field hospitals or pushing for equipment, but says we need more workers.

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