As COVID-19 Cases Soar, PA Hospitals Are Running Out Of ICU Beds And Health Care Workers

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TRANSFORMING HEALTH — With nearly 5,000 Pennsylvanians in the hospital with COVID-19, intensive care units are full in some parts of the state. The long-feared milestone comes on a day with more than 11,000 new COVID-19 cases.

At Geisinger hospitals in places like Lewistown and Danville, doctors and nurses are adapting by treating some patients in emergency rooms and other areas of the hospital, said Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jerry Maloney.

Geisinger hospital in Lewistown, Mifflin County.

The supply of medical/surgical beds is also limited, Maloney said. “So our capacity in some of the hospitals approaches 100 percent and occasionally exceeds 100 percent.”

Geisinger hospitals serving rural communities in places like Lewistown and Danville have lower ICU capacity than some more populated areas—but some of these counties are among those with the highest rates of positive tests. Mifflin County, which includes Lewistown, has the the second-highest COVID-19 positive test rate in the state: 23 percent. The positivity rate statewide is about 12 percent.

Doctors and critical care nurses are available to make sure people get the level of treatment they need, Maloney said. However, health care workers are exhausted from long shifts and filling in for colleagues who are quarantined at home.

“It’s an extremely stressful job, and each staff member goes home exhausted knowing that they’re going to come in tomorrow to what may be a worse situation than what they left today.”