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Nebraska Medicine turning away transfers from other hospitals is 'gut punch'

Lots of patients, lack of staffing
Posted at 6:49 PM, Oct 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-18 19:49:42-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Nebraska Medicine's Chief Operating Officer Cory Shaw calls it a "gut punch" to have to turn transfers away.

"Patients that are currently in a hospital bed and other hospitals who might otherwise need a transfer in normal times — we're going through a process that, one, we have a bed and, two, we can do something for that patient beyond what they are getting locally," Shaw said.

It's something they've been doing the past eight weeks due to a variety of factors.

"It's really a combination of two things. With ICU beds, it's really just beds but it starts with staff. If you don't have adequate staff, you can't open every single bed you have available to you," Shaw said.

UNMC's Nursing College Dean Juliann Sebastian says enrollment in their nursing program is robust, but hospitals still face staffing shortages due to sheer demand.

"Demand is really increasing, so this is not a question of people not being interested in nursing and not enrolling in nursing, but demand is outstripping supply," Sebastian said.

Since hospitals are facing a huge need, Nebraska Methodist College's Deb Carlson says there is an urgency to educate as many nurses as possible.

"We're now seeing that they are wanting to hire students as juniors to lock them in, so when they graduate, they have them in that position. Seeing more of that, of HR having to be more aggressive," Carlson said.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Shaw says it's difficult to forecast what the future could hold.

"It's hurtful to know we're not able to do everything we historically or typical can do," Shaw said. "We understand we are in the middle of a pandemic, and 50 patients at Nebraska Medical Center and state-wide, roughly 400 patients in a hospital bed that wouldn't otherwise be there. That's consuming a great deal of capacity."

Nebraska Medicine has telehealth options for anyone looking for care. The overwhelming number of hospitalized COVID patients in the ICU are unvaccinated.

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