Fairbanks Memorial Hospital discusses current state of COVID-19 hospitalizations

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Published: Sep. 9, 2021 at 3:37 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The Fairbanks Memorial Hospital (FMH) recently discussed the current state of COVID-19 hospitalizations, including ICU availability.

According to Sarah Martin, Chief Nursing Officer at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, FMH is no longer at divert status, but the margin for returning to divert status is closer than they would like.

“So just a little bit of background on how we assess our divert status, it isn’t just bed space, it’s also the availability of appropriate clinical staff,” Martin said. “That’s nurses, respiratory therapists, everybody that it takes to take care of these patients. Historically, we’ve had a really good network of support throughout the state to be able to medevac out patients that need a higher level of care. Currently with the pandemic impacting every hospital across the state as well as in the Lower 48, places like Seattle that we would sometimes medevac patients to as well, they’re all on divert too. So we are now keeping patients that are much sicker and that require long stays of care, and also more care. So I think that’s the bigger issue that we’re having is that we can’t move those patients out. There’s nowhere for them to go.”

While the number of COVID-19 patients in the ICU is low, FMH is treating many more outside of intensive care.

“Today we actually have two COVID patients in our intensive care unit, the larger issue being we have 24 across our organization,” Martin explained. “Those patients require a large amount of care and assistance whether it be in respiratory devices, or nursing assessments, medications, or really even trying to keep people comfortable. So [we’re] not just having our ICU on divert, but having to divert staffing resources into the areas with the most acute patients,” said Martin.

According to Martin, COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Fairbanks. “We track every single day how many patients come to first care, and how many patients come to our ER with COVID symptoms or coming in for COVID testing and test positive - And that number continues to climb daily,” she said.

As cases rise and resources are moved to help those infected with COVID-19, FMH continues to do what it can to ensure the best care for Fairbanks residents.

“If we have somebody that comes in with a heart attack, or a stroke, or a car accident, we are going to be challenged to care for them like we normally would,” Martin explained. “It is not just about COVID patients, it might even be somebody who was scheduled for an admission for a hip replacement, or a knee replacement. We have to evaluate every single day, ‘Can we take that admission? Do we have the staff or the bed space?’ We have almost an entire department that is full of only COVID patients, and so we are struggling to find, again, resources to be able to take care of the patients that we normally care for every day.”

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