As hospitals statewide adopt crisis care standards due to increasing COVID-19 cases, local hospital officials say Bartlett Regional Hospital is not at a critical point.
“Don’t delay your care,” Kim McDowell, Bartlett’s chief nurse, said in a press release. “Rest assured that we are ready to take care of you and meet the health needs of our community. ”
On Saturday, the Alaska Department of Health and Human Services activated crisis care standards for 20 health facilities, including the Bartlett Regional Hospital. The move came at the request of the state’s 15-member volunteer crisis care committee, the DHSS said.
The committee made the decision due to a lack of resources in some hospitals.
According to DHSS, the Crisis Care Standards provide guidelines for providing health care and allocating scarce resources in “the extraordinary circumstances of a disaster or public health emergency.”
“Bartlett is a long way from reallocating the care of our patients. If we reach a level where we prioritize care, the designation allows BRH to operate within crisis care standards, ”hospital officials said in a press release on Sunday evening.
The reduction in regional capacity and the challenges associated with transferring patients from rural communities to critical access hospitals were a factor in the committee’s decision.
“We know our colleagues in Anchorage and Seattle are working extremely hard,” McDowell said in the statement. “The transfer of patients can be added to already full hospitals. It is possible that a point has been reached where there is no room in the traditional destinations for Bartlett’s medical evacuations. ”
In recent weeks, several Alaskan hospitals have postponed elective surgeries as the state leads the country in new COVID-19 infections.
At various points throughout the pandemic, Bartlett officials have suspended elective proceedings. More recently, the BRH resumed elective inpatient procedures on September 20, and they are continuing despite the crisis designation.
“Ambulatory elective surgeries continue without interruption and surgeries that may require a postoperative hospital stay are evaluated daily,” said Vlad Toca, director of operations.
Hospital officials say residents do not need to postpone care, even as COVD-19 cases are increasing locally.
“We would like to thank members of our community for embracing the virus mitigation measures that work: limiting social contact, wearing a mask when you’re with people outside of your bubble, and getting vaccinated. If our community continues to strongly support these efforts, I hope we don’t have to be able to implement Prioritization of Care, ”said Acting CEO Kathy Callahan.
Based on data from the city and borough of Juneau, currently 83.5% of the eligible population in Juneau has received the first dose of the vaccine. Because children under 12 are not yet eligible to be vaccinated, this translates to 71.9% of Juneau’s population with at least one dose of vaccine and 70.2% fully vaccinated.
Over the weekend, the city held immunization clinics to distribute 1,300 booster shots to people who received the Pfizer vaccine at least six months ago.
The cases persist
Despite the high vaccination rate, Juneau’s case count continues to be high, compared to levels seen since the pandemic was first declared in March 2020.
Hospital officials said as of Sunday five people were in hospital with the virus. Additionally, patients recovered with lingering effects of COVID-19 continue to require care.
“Although they are no longer contagious, they still require a large amount of resources and specialized care,” McDowell said.
As of Monday afternoon, DHSS reported 49 new cases in Juneau that were identified between October 2 and 4 – a tally that has become fairly typical in recent weeks. Six people are now hospitalized with COVID-19 at the BRH, according to the report.
The current community risk level is “level 3-high,” a level that calls for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people to wear masks in public places. Additionally, capacity limits apply to many businesses, and bars and restaurants must close at 11:00 p.m.
Last week, the Municipal Assembly voted unanimously to extend the current COVID-19 mitigation plans until March 1, 2022, rather than letting them expire on October 31.
Hospital officials said five nurses arrived in Juneau as part of the Federal Disaster Medical Assistance Team. Nurses are integrated into Bartlett’s medical and surgical unit.
Hospital officials expect additional staff to arrive later this week. Rescue workers include operating room nurses, surgical technicians, and certified nursing assistants.
The reinforcements are among about 500 workers sent to Alaska as the state leads the country with the highest case rate.
• Contact reporter Dana Zigmund at firstname.lastname@example.org or 907-308-4891. Ben Hohenstatt contributed to this report story.