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Like metro hospitals, hospitals in rural areas of Nebraska facing capacity concerns amid virus surge

November 17, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

Smaller hospitals outside Lincoln and Omaha have even more issues with availability of regular hospital beds and intensive-care beds.

A lot of focus recently on the COVID-19 toll on hospitals has centered on how full the Lincoln and Omaha hospitals are, with Bryan Health, CHI Health, Methodist Health and Nebraska Medicine all saying last week that virus patients were occupying 25% or more of their available rooms. One of the reasons for that is that not only do those hospitals take patients from their own metro areas, they also take a number of transfers from smaller hospitals. For example, of the 113 COVID-19 patients Bryan had in its two Lincoln hospitals Monday morning, 72 were from outside Lancaster County.

Douglas County reported 428 COVID-19 patients in its hospitals. A look at some of the smaller hospitals in the state helps explain the surge in COVID-19 patients in the metro areas. On Friday, the East Central District Health Department, which serves Platte, Colfax, Boone and Nance counties, said it had reached a record with 30 hospitalized COVID-19 patients and had only one available intensive-care bed. The Two Rivers Public Health Department, which covers Buffalo and several surrounding counties, said in its most recent weekly report that it had less than 10% of its ICU beds available. In the spring, when certain areas of the state were hit with large outbreaks linked to nursing homes or meatpacking plants, there were plenty of hospital beds in Lincoln, Omaha and some other larger cities where patients could be transferred. But that option is not as simple now, as nearly every county is seeing its highest-ever case counts. "As hospital beds in our state and region become increasingly unavailable, it has become more difficult to transfer patients in need of a higher level of care for any medical reason, not just COVID-related reasons," Veronica Schmidt, CEO of Melham Medical Center in Broken Bow, said last week in a message posted on the hospital's Facebook page. Schmidt said Melham was in its fifth week of a patient surge and was full or nearly full during that time. "The hospital has increased staffing and other resources to meet the need; however, as current trends continue, the care needs will far surpass local and regional resources," she said.

At that level, COVID patients are taking up about 29% of the beds available at the state's larger acute-care hospitals. In many places, though, the number is much higher. Great Plains Medical Center in North Platte said in a news release last week that COVID-19 patients were taking up nearly 40% of its beds. On Thursday, 30 of the hospital's 76 beds had a COVID patient. “Much like hospitals across the state, we are about as full as we can get and still serve the needs of the region,” said Mel McNea, Great Plains Health chief executive officer.

Two Rivers also said that about 40% of the hospital beds in its region were occupied by COVID-19 patients. On Monday night, the state's coronavirus dashboard listed 29% of the state's hospital beds available, but only 21% of intensive-care beds were uncommitted. Dr. Dan Johnson, a critical care anesthesiologist at Nebraska Medicine in Omaha, said last week that based on the current trend of hospitalizations doubling every three weeks, the Omaha area could have close to 1,500 COVID-19 patients in six weeks, more than there are statewide at this time. "There's no possible way that hospitals in Omaha can handle it," Johnson said Monday during an interview with MSNBC. He pointed out that if Omaha-area hospitals run out of beds and the nurses and other professionals needed to staff them, it's not just hurting COVID-19 patients. "It's for heart attacks.

"So imagine if one of your family members needs medical care and can't get into a hospital because we've filled all the beds with COVID-19 patients. "That's a bad situation. "The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services reported a record 3,440 cases Monday, topping the previous high of 2,681 recorded Nov. 6.

The number of deaths in the state linked to the virus is 797. A number of hospitals and health organizations have taken their pleas for help directly to elected officials and the public. Regional West Medical Center in Scottsbluff, where case numbers on a per-capita basis are among the highest in the state, sent a letter last week to city and county government officials in its region, asking them to introduce mask mandates. Gov. Pete Ricketts again Monday stated his opposition to such mandates, which are currently in place in Omaha and Lancaster County and are under consideration by city councils in Kearney and Grand Island. Other health organizations have chosen to take their message directly to the public. Bryan last week put out a video featuring some of its top doctors imploring people to follow public health guidance to slow the spread of COVID-19 and reduce hospitalizations.

Officials said they were largely targeting rural areas with the message. On Monday, two industry groups, the Nebraska Hospital Association and the Nebraska Healthcare Marketers, announced the start of their own digital campaign, which will include videos aired on their own social media channels and distributed to hospitals in the state. "Our hospitals and health care professionals are at their limits and Nebraskans need to change their behaviors soon if we have any hope of knocking down this deadly virus in our communities,” Laura J.

“As Nebraskans, it is our responsibility to take the necessary steps to protect our loved ones in the face of this global pandemic. ”There also is a group that includes the Douglas County Health Department, Ricketts and his wife, Susanne Shore, Nebraska Education Commissioner Matt Blomstedt and Dr. James Lawler of Nebraska Medicine that plans to unveil Thursday a statewide campaign called Do Right, Right Now, which is described as a "practical call for a unified response to fight COVID-19. "Lincoln during the coronavirus crisis

Skeletons outside of a South Lincoln home encourage residents to go vote in the upcoming election on Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020.

Shae Center (from left) give out candies to Payton Jones, 6, as the family Bre Jones, Carson Jones, and Miles Jones, 3, go trick-or-treat during Boo at the Zoo at Lincoln Children's Zoo, Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020.

Pop-art ads encourage patrons downtown to wear masks on Monday, Oct. 19, 2020, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

University of Nebraska-Lincoln senior Joel Smith packs up his bag at a newly created seating areas under tents at Nebraska Union, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020.

Lincoln Pius X saxophonists compete during The LPS Marching Band Showcase at Seacrest Field the on Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020.

Poppy Massing, 11, gets vaccinated by Barb Martinez, a public health nurse at Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department, during a vaccine clinic at Lefler Middle School, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020.

People wait their turn in a socially distant line outside the Department of Motor Vehicles' 46th Street office Monday, Aug. 31, the deadline to get registrations renewed.

University of Nebraska-Lincoln students attend a class in masks on the first day of in-person classes on Aug. 24.

Jordan Gonzales walks through the Haymarket Farmers Market on Saturday, Aug. 22, handing out stickers, masks and wristbands encouraging others to wear masks and practice social distancing.

Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department Director Pat Lopez attends a City Council meeting on her permanent appointment on Monday, Aug. 17.

A double-pump hand sanitizer station built at the University of Nebraska's Innovation Campus sits outside the lunchroom at Dawes Middle School on Thursday, Aug. 13, the first day of school for middle school students.

Students at Wysong Elementary keep their distance from each other as they enter the lunchroom on the first day of school Wednesday, Aug. 12.

Lincoln Pius X players listen to head coach Katie Wenz as she explains drills during the first day of fall practice Aug. 10, at Pius X.

The Lincoln Police Department on Saturday morning, Aug. 8, enforced the city health department's order to close Madsen's Bowling & Billiards, blocking all entrances to the business with police cruisers.

Caleb Petersen (right) uses buckets to drum alongside others during a rally outside of the County-City Building while the Lincoln City Council met inside on Monday, Aug. 3.

Parent and Lincoln Public Schools teacher Ellen James (center), dressed as the Grim Reaper, holds a sign in front of the state Capitol on Monday, Aug. 3, as protesters called for more safety protocols before reopening schools.

Lincoln High School readiness days

Lincoln High juniors with last names beginning with A through G line up to have photos taken for identification as part of readiness days last week.

Kristi Molina, a Lincoln North Star High School teacher, holds a sign outside the Lincoln Public Schools offices ahead of a school board meeting Tuesday, July 28.

Graduates wave and blow kisses to family members in the seats above during Lincoln Northeast's graduation ceremony at Pinnacle Bank Arena on Friday, July 24.

As of Monday, a health measure from the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department requires people to wear a face covering indoors with some exceptions, including for children under age 5.

Lincoln Northeast head coach Charity Iromuanya cleans basketballs with a disinfectant solution after players put them away during open gym practice at Lincoln Northeast on Friday, July 10.

Archie the mammoth at the University of Nebraska State Museum is masked up on Thursday, July 9, 2020.

Meah Squires (left), 8, and Arianna Roberts, 7, wear masks as they color on a sign at the Cedars Community Learning Center on Friday.

Amy Koepke as Prudence Purewater (left) and Marie Barrett as Hazel Hoochater perform Wednesday, July 1, during a rehearsal for the upcoming Parking Lot Plays at the Lincoln Community Playhouse.

Stephanie Carpenter and Justin Doyle dance the two-step as Silas Creek performs at the Garth Brooks drive-in concert Saturday, June 27, at the Lancaster Event Center.

Hundreds gathered for the Juneteenth celebration at the Lincoln Indian Center on Friday, June 19.

Members of Legislature's Judiciary Committee spent two days in early June listening to speakers talk about systemic racism and law enforcement policies and practices during sessions in Omaha and Lincoln.

Dan Hartong of Lincoln cools off June 1 with a beer at W. C. 's South Sports Bar, as bars in 89 of 93 Nebraska counties were allowed to open for the first time since March.

KENNETH FERRIERA, Lincoln Journal Star

Taylor Cumblidge, a volunteer with Boys and Girls Clubs of Lincoln/Lancaster County, helps distribute free dinners Monday, May 18, outside of Friedens Lutheran Church.

The Parkview Christian parent/student community celebrated educators Wednesday, May 13, by decorating cars and doing a brief parade through the school parking lot for Teacher Appreciation Day.

Wearing a mask, Mallory Conner carries her ballot at Lincoln Southeast High School, which hosted one of nearly 200 city precincts in the primary election on Tuesday, May 12.

Lincoln reopening

Eric Post, owner of The Normandy, serves customers Jane Williams (center) and Keith Larsen on the first day of dine-in service returning in Lancaster County on Monday, May 11.

Lincoln Christian senior Ally Korte (left), one of 52 graduates recognized by the school, talks with KC Orduna in May. Each senior had their name painted on the school's football field along with a yard sign featuring the portrait.

CHI Health workers place a COVID-19 swab in a test tube while administering tests by appointment at a drive-thru Test Nebraska site at Lancaster Event Center on May 8.

The intersection of 14th and Vine streets, near where the Lincoln Marathon would have started this year, sits empty on May 3, 2020.

"It's been one of my best birthdays ever," said Jerome Blowers, a former Lincoln police officer paralyzed in a pool accident who was working as an entrance monitor at Kooser Elementary and celebrated his 55th birthday with a drive-by celebration Wednesday, April 29.

Nebraska State Patrol Sgt. Les Zimmerman hands a package of surgical masks to a truck driver on Wednesday, April 29, 2020, at the westbound I-80 weigh station.

CHI St. Elizabeth president Derek Vance places a sign outside a hospital employee's home Wednesday, April 29.

Students wave to teachers and staff from their cars on Thursday, April 23, 2020, during a teacher and staff parade at St. John the Apostle School.

Brian Liegl of Lincoln holds a sign expressing his gratitude to health care workers, Thursday, April 23, 2020, at CHI Health St. Elizabeth.

Private 2nd Class Gary Mack (left) and Senior Master Sgt. Donald Dissmeyer unload food at a food distribution site Wednesday, April 22, at Lincoln High School.

People watch the live coverage outside the City Council chambers Monday, April 13.

A "Heroes Work Here" sign shown outside the Lancaster Rehabilitation Center on Thursday, April 9, 2020.

A line of cars travels P Street during a drive-thru parade outside the Lincoln Children's Museum on Saturday, April 4.

Last week, a sign showing support for New York showed up in Tower Square in downtown Lincoln.

A billboard calls for Lincoln residents to stay home during coronavirus pandemic.

Wearing a mask for protection, Teri Stoppel waits for a StarTran bus at the Gold's Building in downtown Lincoln in March.

Katie Bockelman teaches students world geography using Zoom on Friday, March 20, at Lincoln Lutheran School.

A temporary sign designates free curbside pickup parking at meters in front of downtown Lincoln businesses.

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