OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — At 9 a.m. Tuesday, Nebraska Medicine entered into their Crisis Standards of Care plan, a move that has never been done before by the hospital system.
Doctors say they entered into this plan as a precautionary measure, anticipating continuous high COVID-19 cases.
"We entered this operational status to be prepared," said Dr. James Linder, Chief Executive Officer of Nebraska Medicine. "We’ve not yet reached a COVID- 19 spike in our community and this operational status positions us to respond to any spikes and the number of cases we have to care for the community and doing so in a safe manner."
During this standard of care, appointments may be rescheduled and harder to come by, surgeries may be postponed and clinical trials may be paused. Patient transfers from surrounding hospitals may be denied, medical students and other staff may be used as support personnel and non patient areas like classrooms or conference rooms may be used for patient care.
Doctors say this shouldn't deter patients from seeking care. They say this plan allows them to safely care for both COVID and non-COVID patients amid the surge.
This plan has been enacted amid the omicron surge. Doctors say we have yet to see the spike, but have also seen overlap with patients who were diagnosed with the delta variant.
"What everyone understands is what’s different about the omicron variant is in a really short period of time, it really stressed our health care system," Cory Shaw, Chief Operating Officer for Nebraska Medicine, said.
The surge in omicron cases is not just affecting hospitalizations, but it's also affecting hospital staff.
Nebraska Medicine representatives say they've seen a high number of staff having to call out, either because someone in their household has been exposed or tested positive for COVID, or they themselves have tested positive. Staffing issues have also led to the plan's enactment.
Methodist Health System is seeing similar issues. While they have not entered a crisis level of care plan, they are evaluating the situation on an hourly basis.
"We are doing the best we can and we are taking care of the patients to the best of our ability, but we don’t have the ideal resources," Dr. Michele Williams, Emergency Department Medical Director for Methodist Fremont Health said. "We don’t have the places to send the patients, we don’t have the beds in our facility we’d like to have."
Methodist doctors say they're seeing an "astronomically high percentage"of positive COVID tests.
They say while they're treating patients to the best of their ability, they're tired.
"We’re used to taking care of patients that are sick, sad situations, critically ill patients, but what we’re not used to is dealing with the volume of people that are dying from the same condition," Dr. Sumit Mukherjee, Pulmonologist and Critical Care Coordinator for Methodist Jennie Edmundson Hospital, said. "On December 28th I pronounced a third of our ICU dead from COVID and I took one-third and put them on a ventilator, that was all on a 30-hour period of time."
On Thursday, CHI Health released a statement saying that it will not be enacting Crisis Standards of Care.
"Our 14 hospitals in Nebraska and southwest Iowa are stretched thin, but our staff continue to provide heroic care to the communities we serve. We are in contingency care, which means we adapt daily to patients, staffing and bed availability. Our patient load and our staffing needs have grown exponentially. Currently, we have 223 COVID-19 patients in the hospital. 91 percent of those on ventilators are not vaccinated. Omicron is impacting our workforce. Currently we have 379 employees out quarantining or have tested positive for COVID-19. This definitely puts a stress on our system.Throughout the pandemic, we have been evaluating surgeries based on critical needs of each patient - delaying cases that can safely wait. That has not changed," the statement read.
Doctors across hospital systems plea with the community to wear a mask and get vaccinated.