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As COVID-19 cases rise, area hospitals handle surge

Posted at 6:18 PM, May 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-26 19:18:13-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — On Tuesday the Omaha Metropolitan Healthcare Coalition, which covers Douglas, Dodge, Sarpy, Saunders and Washington counties, reported that there are 141 total inpatients diagnosed with COVID-19 and just over 75-percent of the ICU beds at their hospitals are occupied.

These numbers have been updated since 3 News Now reported on the growing amount of coronavirus cases in the region and how hospital occupancy rates are trending upward. Since the state loosened health restrictions in parts of Nebraska on May 4, the number of COVID-19 inpatients at the area hospitals have been trending upward. At the same time, the number of intensive care beds available has been decreasing. As of now roughly 75-percent of these beds are full.

“What we’re seeing instead is still troublesome and that is this gradual upslope in the number of cases which gradually has put a strain in the number of cases,” said Dr. Angela Hewlett, the medical director of the Nebraska Biocontainment Unit.

She said while occupancy rates are at manageable levels, hospitals can still become overwhelmed when it comes to caring for multiple sick patients that require long-term intensive care.

“ICU beds require staffing, they require nurses and physicians and respiratory therapists and others to care for those patients and we need to remember even if a bed is empty we might not have the staffing to take care of the patients,” Hewlett said.

Nebraska Medicine isn’t the only hospital facing these issues. In a statement provided to 3 News Now, Methodist Health System President and CEO Steve Goeser said the following:

“As the Omaha Metro Healthcare Coalition numbers indicate, all health care systems in Omaha are seeing an increase of COVID-19 patients in our hospitals. Methodist is among those treating a high volume of COVID-19 patients at this time. That uptick can be attributed to our community’s vulnerable populations being impacted as well as increased testing. While the number of COVID-19 patients are up, staff are handling things very well thanks to the planning and preparing we do on a regular basis.”

Hewlett added a positive is the decreasing numbers of coronavirus cases in smaller communities. However, she’s worried part about the larger numbers in Douglas County.

“We have a strong workforce but even a strong workforce can be taxed when it comes to caring for people for a long period of time,” Hewlett said.

While the Omaha Metropolitan Healthcare Coalition is technically five counties in Nebraska, the numbers also include a few hospitals in Council Bluffs since they are tied to a few of the major health systems in Omaha.

Watch reporter Phil Bergman’s story in the above video.