UNMC doctor warns of compromised care if hospital capacity increases

Posted at 5:38 PM, Oct 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-12 13:59:41-05

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — A University of Nebraska Medical Center doctor is warning Omaha residents that the metro-area is about to get attacked by COVID-19, unlike we’ve seen thus far in the pandemic.

See also: Neb. Medicine doctor pens COVID-19 warning as cases rise

In a letter, Dr. Dan Johnson, says area hospitals are essentially full, creating a potentially dangerous scenario in the coming weeks.

“If we fail at this, far too many Nebraskans will needlessly die.” Dr. Johnson wrote in his letter.

Johnson, Division Chief of Critical Care at UNMC, says that increased coronavirus cases in Douglas County is straining the healthcare system, so-much-so that he’s warning patient’s care could become compromised.

Taylor Barth, a spokesperson for CHI Health, says their hospital system has 44 COVID-19 patients in the Omaha metro-area, and 46 patients in their rural hospitals.

Barth adds CHI Immanuel Health had nine COVID-19 patients as of Monday morning, adding there is room for more depending on their level of care.

The most recent numbers from Douglas County Health shows metro-area hospitals at 79% occupancy rate. Dr. Johnson predicts cases to rise within the next two weeks, as well.

Last week, infectious disease doctor Mark Rupp, gave a similar warning.

Dr. Rupp says it’s not just about the number of open ICU beds, adding the vulnerability lies with how many critical care doctors are available, as well.

“The people who are really tired of this pandemic are the folks that are working in our emergency departments, working in our COVID units, working in our ICU - who night after day after night after month after month have been working overtime since really sometime in March,” Rupp said.

UNMC released a statement that says in part, “The communication reminds medical professionals of how much they will be needed if current trends of COVID-19 infection and hospitalization rates in Nebraska don’t reverse themselves very soon.”

In Dr. Johnson’s letter, he says Wisconsin just built a 530-bed field hospital outside of Milwaukee. Johnson predicts that similar measures will be needed in Nebraska.

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