Staffing, PPE 'careening towards crisis status' for hospitals, nursing homes

NOW: Staffing, PPE ’careening towards crisis status’ for hospitals, nursing homes

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MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) – Staffing and personal protective equipment (PPE) are being stretched to their limits at places like hospitals, nursing homes and long-term care facilities, sparking a continued call from officials for the public to adhere to staying at home, social distancing and mask wearing.

The issue is in the spotlight as Wisconsin broke another single-day record for confirmed COVID-19 cases with 7,777 reported Friday, Nov. 13 as well as an additional 58 deaths.

A new report from AARP found that nursing homes in Wisconsin lack enough PPE and staff to keep up with outbreaks. AARP leaders believe the trend is likely to continue.

“Things are getting to be in a pretty dire strait,” AARP Wisconsin State Issues Advocacy Director Helen Marks Dicks told CBS 58 in an interview. “Our deaths, our infection rates, things of that nature, the availability of PPE, everything is really careening towards real crisis status and particularly worker shortage also. There is just a real problem in the nursing homes.”

In its analysis, AARP is urging state government leaders to work together to assemble a plan and address the issue. The group wants a prioritization of regular and ongoing testing at nursing homes as well as enough PPE and staff. On top of that, the group is advocating for transparency measures like inspectors, reporting of cases and access to facilities to ensure resident well-being.

The concerns over staffing and PPE are echoed by the Wisconsin Assisted Living Association (WALA).

“Caregiver staffing continues to be our primary concern and struggle,” WALA CEO Michael Pochowski said in a statement to CBS 58. The WALA is working with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services to identify immediate and long-term solutions to this caregiver shortage crisis. Further, like most other healthcare providers, our members have identified challenges to obtaining needed PPE.”

UW Health University Hospital in Madison said its supply chain for PPE is stable, but the same is not true for all hospitals.

“It’s not unusual to occasionally get a request from a small hospital wondering if we got PPE, [if] they’re getting short,” Dr. Jeffrey Pothof, UW Health’s Chief Quality Officer, told CBS 58.

Concerns for University Hospital are focused on things like the supply of ventilators, space and staff.

“The farther down these contingency plans we go the less ideal the space we can use, the less ideal the staffing we can use, and as a result we’re going to have less than ideal patient outcomes,” Dr. Pothof said. “People who otherwise would make it won’t make it because we don’t have the resources available anymore.”

On Friday, UW Health, UnityPoint Health – Meriter and SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital-Madison announced they would reduce the number of non-urgent procedures and surgeries to allow for more ICU beds to be available for COVID-19 patients. On Thursday, Nov. 12, DHS officials reported only 8 percent of ICU beds were available statewide.

Dr. Pothof said the state’s health systems need people across Wisconsin to do their part to help avoid an already bad situation from getting even worse.

“We’ve talked a lot about masking and social distancing, that’s what we need,” Dr. Pothof said. “If I try to distill it down even further than that, what we really need is for people to care about other people just a little bit more than what we’ve been doing. We have to think about our neighbors who we know and also those neighbors we don’t know and put their needs, their health and safety just a little bit ahead of what we want to do; if we can do that, we can have success in this pandemic.”

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