Omaha hospitals worried COVID-19 could still overwhelm system

Published: May. 22, 2020 at 7:28 PM CDT
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On Friday, local and state officials said they are keeping a close watch in the healthcare system in Douglas County -- worried it could become overwhelmed and workers fatigued.

At Nebraska Medicine, leaders said on-average they are dealing with about 70 COVID-19 patients per day.

But as they continue to see more severe cases, they said there's a number of things that show just how delicate the system is.

“It’s, you know, critically important to understand that the system is relatively fragile and can still be overwhelmed,” said Dr. Mark Rupp, chief of the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s Division of Infectious Diseases and medical director of infection control and epidemiology.

Leaders at UNMC and Nebraska Medicine said they are seeing an increase in COVID-19 patients who require a high level of care.

“Unfortunately, we don't have a lot of ICU capacity open,” Rupp said.

He said UNMC and Nebraska Medicine are at 80 percent capacity but he does not feel the numbers fully reflect what is going on.

“I think people look at -- with regard to the data is just a very simplistic view of how many open beds are there, how many open ventilators are available -- but that doesn't tell the whole story and quite frankly, having an open bed really is quite meaningless unless you have the personnel to really care for that critically sick person,” Rupp explained.

Douglas County Health Department Director Dr. Adi Pour said the high capacity is not directly related to COVID-19.

She said they are looking at other factors in determining what's making up the full percentage.

Rupp said not only is he concerned about patients but he's concerned about the staff working here, as well.

"We’ve been dealing with the COVID pandemic for several months in our area and, quite frankly the folks who are caring for these people in the critical care setting with the most ill patients, are fatigued and we are stressed,” he said.

Rupp said before the pandemic started the hospital was at about 100 percent capacity but with things rapidly changing over the past few months, they've been decreasing the total capacity to make sure there's room for COVID-19 patients.