Franklin County is the first county to reach a "purple" level on the state's color-coded COVID-19 warning map, and Gov. Mike DeWine says that's having an impact on local hospitals.
“Our health care system is feeling the impact of this disease and hospitals are worried about keeping up with staffing of nurses and doctors and other support staff,” DeWine said in his Thursday coronavirus update.
Jeff Klingler, president and CEO of the Central Ohio Hospital Council, agrees with the governor's assessment.
“Capacity is tight. Even if you look at just COVID hospitalizations over the past two, two and a half weeks, we’ve seen a two-fold increase,” he says. “On November 1, we had just under 400 hospitalizations across the region. Today, we pass 850, and of course that does impact overall hospital capacity.”
Klingler says that they’re looking at various strategies, such as doubling up patients and opening ambulatory rooms to COVID patients, to increase physical space.
“More importantly, there are a lot of interventions that hospitals are putting in place to make sure we have adequate staff available to care for this increase in capacity,” Klingler says.
He says it's a two-fold problem, where COVID-19 increases the need for staff but reduces the amount of staff available, as some workers have to quarantine after coming down with the virus themselves.
If the situation worsens, it might mean once again postponing non-urgent procedures – something Cleveland Clinic in Northeast Ohio has already done. But there's a major difference between the problems hospitals face now and the situation in the spring, when the state first restricted surgeries and visitation.
“It’s not on the PPE side, it’s more to address the need to have additional beds and additional staff,” Klingler says.