In the face of a rapidly spreading disease wave caused by the Delta mutation, many Americans are in a very miserable situation. They had to travel hundreds of miles, because the hospital near where they lived was no longer available. And while waiting for treatment, there are people who did not survive.
In a nutshell, hospitals in the US are overcrowded. They began to be forced to select patients to cure.
“Pick the patient” has long been a taboo word for the American medical profession. It’s often used in a negative sense, when there’s a patient who doesn’t get medical care because he can’t pay the hospital bills, that sort of thing.
Delta variant – a strain considered comprehensive with the ability to spread faster and more virulent. Together with the slowing US vaccination rate (mainly because many people do not want to be vaccinated), both contribute to the crisis they are facing today.
Tennessee, Kentucky, Alaska, Wyoming, and West Virginia are the states with the most severe outbreaks, having set a record of hospitalizations in recent weeks, even approaching the winter wave of 2020. These states all have vaccination rates below the national average. The number of patients requiring intensive care (ICU) in southern hospitals has exceeded the capacity to respond.
America – the country with the most powerful economy in the world – should not be a place where patients have to wait to die without being treated. Yet it is happening, right now!
The unnecessary deaths of the health system are not for the pandemic
Many places in the US health system are still struggling in the Covid-19 pandemic. This Covid crisis is just their latest setback.
The United States still has a large population of unvaccinated residents. 1 in 4 people over the age of 18 have not had any vaccinations. In particular, the younger group has a lower vaccination rate. As a result, the hospitalization rate also has a shift in age: people over 65 used to occupy half of the beds in December 2020 and early 2021, now only one third. Children under 12 years old – a group that is not yet eligible for vaccination and children’s hospitals are seeing the highest number of infections ever.
Hospital funeral home staff take care of a patient’s afterlife
And all in all, the number of people with Covid-19 experiencing severe symptoms and being hospitalized is about to reach its highest level since the beginning of the pandemic. Texas, for example, has almost reached its peak since last winter, with 14,200 people being hospitalized with Covid-19 and more than 90% of ICU beds filled. In Ida, 88% of ICU beds were occupied, forcing them to adopt the “crisis care standard” – a standard that allows medics to prioritize patients based on their survival.
Daniel Wilkinson – a 46-year-old veteran in Bellville, Texas was rushed to the emergency room. He was diagnosed with gallstone pancreatitis – a treatable disease, but the local hospital did not have the equipment. Doctors called all over the state and out of the hospital, but could not find one that would accept him. All of them have the highest number of Covid-19 hospitalizations in the country at the moment.
Eventually, they confirmed a place with an ICU bed for him, located an hour’s drive from Bellville. But Wilkinson’s internal condition was so bad that even though he was taken by helicopter, he couldn’t hold out before he reached the hospital. It was 7 hours after he was taken to the local emergency room by his mother.
Stories like Wilkinson’s are actually aplenty in America. On September 13, a 73-year-old man in Alabama died of heart failure after being turned away by more than 40 hospitals. The nearest place for him was in Mississippi, about 200 miles away. Alabama itself is also the state with the second highest hospitalization rate per capita in the nation.
Hospitals are trying to balance the new wave of Covid-19 with medical care with other illnesses. But that means they will have to make painful choices.
Karen Joynt Maddox, a health policy researcher at the University of Washington, said her hospital was instructed not to accept patients from small rural areas during the pandemic, unless it was an extremely urgent situation. In other words, they have to refuse a lot of referral requests from the patient’s family.
America itself does not have as many hospital beds as other rich countries. The rate of beds per 1000 people in the US is only 2.9, while the average set by Peterson-Kaiser Health System Tracker (an organization specializing in monitoring the public health system) is 4.6.
The reason for this lack of preparation is that over the decades many medical services have moved from inpatient to outpatient treatment to save costs. It resulted in the number of beds being reduced to accommodate the reduced hospital demand. Then when the pandemic happened, the wave of patients came, they easily became overwhelmed.
There are more countries that are “persistent” before Covid-19
The latest Covid crisis has revealed shortcomings in the organization of the health system in the US. This is also what distinguishes the US from many other rich countries, when faced with a rising wave of infections.
Like the US, many powerful countries have also been challenged by the pandemic, some even becoming the world’s worst epidemic – like Italy in 2020. But after more than a year, they are well equipped. more resilient, coupled with rising vaccination rates and a more cohesive health system.
A female ICU doctor is waiting for a new patient, after another patient passed away and was transferred
In fact, if you count the number of hospital beds per capita, the US is not the lowest. Canada and the UK both have slightly lower number of beds, and they were close to reaching the limit during the worst outbreak of their country. He had to transfer ICU patients to less congested hospitals last winter. In Ontario (Canada), 2500 patients also had to move to other cities to meet the demand for hospital beds.
Even France, which has a higher number of beds per capita than the US, has 100 patients who have to be evacuated when hospitals in Paris are overwhelmed. But their stories are not as scary as the US, because they own a hospital system with much greater cohesion. The transfer of patients will be managed by local or government authorities. In the US, they don’t have such a system. Everything is spontaneous, when doctors and nurses have to call to ask for beds and ventilators for patients.
Disorganization leads to pitiful situations. An overcrowded emergency room in a suburban area will result in patients being displaced. The shortage of manpower – the US has more administrative staff than medical staff compared to the rest of the world – will also lead to bad consequences.
“Every health system is selective care, because resources are not limitless. But in the United States, they make choices more haphazardly, while countries build a system of rational allocation to manage manage your resources,” – Ezra Klein, Vox commentator shared.
“As a result, they are in a good position in the face of a growing wave of sick people. America has to pay the price for not being able to do that.”