PENNSYLVANIA — As hospital capacity limits are pushed across Pennsylvania because of COVID-19, the state may soon be forced into a "crisis standard of care" as the availability of resources, staff, beds and more continues to dwindle.
A total of 86 percent of all hospital beds in Pennsylvania are currently in use, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
That comes as at least 36 of the state's 236 hospitals have formally reported dangerously low staff shortages, according to the Bucks County Courier Times.
"We are simultaneously implementing a multitude of measures to help mitigate the impact from the current surge of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations," Acting Secretary of Health Keara Klinepeter said in a statement.
A total of 226 hospitals in the state reported data to HHS. All told, 26,811 inpatient beds are in use out of 31,095 available beds.
There are 8,196 beds currently being used for COVID-19 patients, statistics show.
To see capacity at your local hospital, and to see how many COVID-19 patients are using beds there, see here.
The state has already called for and received help from the federal government in the form of FEMA strike teams that alleviated critical hospitals in Reading and York. But hospitals continue to feel the effects of the surge of the virus. Springfield Hospital in Delaware County announced its closure this week, all hospitals in Delaware County are at capacity, and health care systems such as Geisinger have been well over capacity for weeks now.
"Crisis standards" are the next step, and they basically represent a change in what is considered critical enough for a person to be hospitalized. A formal declaration could be issued at the state level, although several health care systems have already been forced to significantly re-evaluate how they handle intake of patients and where they are treated. Some emergency rooms have extended into waiting rooms, or mobile units placed outside somewhere on hospital grounds. Other hospitals may soon have to turn patients away, experts warn.
Hospitalizations have spiked nearly 50 percent in the past two weeks in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania is now showing a rate of per 100,000 people.
Even as omicron coronavirus variant has resulted in less-severe cases, there are so many cases that many are still resulting in hospitalizations, even if they are not causing as many deaths or leading to as lengthy a hospital stay as the delta variant.
“As we see hospitals and health systems caring for more and more patients in the midst of staffing challenges and faced with a highly transmissible virus that does not spare our health care workers, all of us must do our part to protect our hospitals and our neighbors and reduce the further spread of this virus,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said.
While some voices on the left urge the state to declare a state of emergency and implement stricter mitigation measures to keep numbers down, Gov. Tom Wolf's administration is keeping the focus on vaccinations.
"The fact remains that the best way to protect yourself, your family, and your community from COVID-19 is for everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated and then get your booster," Wolf said Friday. "COVID-19 vaccines and boosters are available right in your community — which means you can get vaccinated in the place that is most convenient for you.”