Medical professionals warn Nebraska hospitals are on the brink

Published: Sep. 2, 2021 at 1:26 AM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - As Nebraska hospitals near capacity — some already full of COVID-19 and non-COVID patients — medical professionals in Nebraska are calling on Gov. Pete Ricketts to do more to help slow the spread of the virus.

“It really is at the breaking point already and the limit of human tolerance,” said Dr. James Lawler, Nebraska Medicine. “If we’re going to ask them to do even more as more cases come in, we’re really putting ourselves at risk our entire health system.”

Ricketts announced Wednesday the state will once again open hospital transfers centers.

“So the critical access hospitals have much of the capacity, the hospitals are full so that’s one of the reasons for the transfer center is to be able to balance out those needs,” the governor said at his news conference.

But the medical experts are saying it’s not enough.

“We’re clearly in a public health emergency,” said Dr. Lawler, noting Nebraska Medicine has opened another COVID-19 unit, scrambling to find space and staff.

“We just opened up a new makeshift COVID ward today,” said Dr. Lawler. “We took another ward over to add additional room for COVID patients because we’ve exceeded the capacity and we’ve been adding addition wards over the past few weeks.”

In July there were three COVID-19 patients hospitalized at Nebraska Medicine, now there are 60.

“If we continue to grow at the rate we’re growing in terms of COVID inpatients we’re going to be in big trouble across the Metro and across the state,” said the doctor.

For weeks healthcare workers have been calling on Governor Ricketts to reinstate the State of Emergence, which would make way for mask mandates and other safety protocols.

“Why we wouldn’t go back and use the recipe that we used successfully in the past to navigate what is clearly an even more dangerous epidemic wave of COVID-19,” said Dr. Lawler. “If we’re going to try and navigate the delta wave without doing any of those things we are going to far exceed our breaking point I’m afraid.”

Another puzzling piece to the puzzle said the doctor, are misleading comments like this by the governor: “Kids are more at risk for the flu than they are for the coronavirus,” he said.

“The idea that children are less likely to catch COVID-19 in a school than influenza is a fundamentally flawed argument,” said Dr. Lawler, noting also that children are more likely to suffer long-term symptoms from COVID-19 than they are the flu.

“COVID-19 is much more impactful on children,” Dr. Lawler said. “This is public health. We need to act now to protect children and people in our communities.”

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