Is the Hospital Really Overrun With Covid Patients?

Yavapai Regional Medical Center ambulance bay

I’ve watched both friends and complete strangers question if the hospitals are really overrun with Covid and if such an occurrence is even that big of a deal. I decided to check things out a bit for myself today since I had to drop off an important and time sensitive package for one of the ER docs that was inadvertently shipped to my house. I called the hospital to make sure it wouldn’t burden them to run by real quick. After a 20-minute hold that already proved how busy things are, I was patched through to someone who arranged for me to quickly swing by the ER security desk.

Emergency department parking

One of the first things I noticed when arriving at the ER is how it appeared to be overflowing. Obviously, I’m not going to post photos with license plate information, but all of the typical “Emergency Department Parking Only” spaces were taken, and the broader parking lot was so full that there was a hospital staff member driving a golf cart around to pick people up at their distanced parking spot and take most of them over to the emergency room entrance door.

Yavapai Regional Medical Center emergency entrance

Just under this “Emergency” sign sat three different groups of people waiting outside because the inside room was full. There were also a couple of nurses who appeared to be taking a break and had a look of absolute exhaustion on their faces.

Yavapai Regional Medical Center Covid triage center, in the hospital parking lot

Just behind the ER entrance is a Covid triage center that has been built, just like so many other hospitals with overflowing demand, outside in the parking lot! This Cerner article shows some photos of the interior.

Yavapai Regional Medical Center emergency room entrance

The inside of the ER was definitely crowded and aligned 100% with the stories that several friends who work there have offered, including patients waiting for 4 to 24 hours just to be admitted and entire families (mom, dad, and kids) checking in with Covid symptoms.

In my own life, I have had to visit the ER several times, including a bad bike accident that needed immediate medical care, with my infant daughter in the middle of the night, and my arriving by ambulance after passing out from an allergic reaction. At the time, we were able to get admitted immediately. But if these scenarios were to occur today, we could be forced to wait an unimaginable amount of time for a room to open up, if we could even get in at all, because so many of the ER rooms are full of Covid patients, with a long line of additional Covid patients waiting behind them.

And that’s just the ER. I’ve also been in the ICU before thanks to a heart surgery that probably saved my life. But all the ICU beds are also full right now, mostly due to Covid patients, at both my local hospital, across my state, and much of the rest of the nation.

Thinking about that entire family who was at the ER with Covid, I wonder who takes care of the sick (or even healthy) children if mom needs to be admitted and dad has to work? What if mom doesn’t make it?

This is the reality of the Covid situation that is unfolding, yet again, in my community, and probably yours too.

Care package for emergency room staff

After all the stress that has been placed on the people working in this ER, I wanted to offer an act of kindness in appreciation of their work. I swung over to the grocery store and put together this bouquet of treats and “Thank You” balloons alongside a handwritten note from my family.

I went back by the front desk and delivered this gift to one of the security guards. He and several of the other staff members thanked me for something that was a pretty small gesture from my standpoint but seems to have made a fairly large impact on a group of people who are not only doing a thankless job but are sometimes even criticized for doing so.

Several people started sharing stories about what it has been like working inside the ER these past 18 months. You’ve probably already heard the perspective of multiple doctors. Whether you agree with that medical advice or not, I’d like to share a little bit about what one of the security guards told me. “The past several months, it has been almost all unvaccinated people, including younger people…even kids. It’s been heartbreaking to see something so preventable cause so much damage and death.”

I also shared with one of the front desk staff members how my aunt used to do the same job for her local hospital’s ER and how important I consider that role to be.

As I walked back to my car, a guy was entering the ER with a shirt that said “Fuck Your Feelings” – a perfectly unfortunate example of the lack of empathy shown by so many throughout this pandemic.

Once in my car, I said a prayer for all of our medical professionals who are dealing with such overwhelming stress during this terrible pandemic. I’m sure they could use your prayers, too!

After leaving, I checked our local health department’s Covid dashboard. The report showed 560 deaths thus far in the rural county that I live in, including 8 people in their mid 40’s or younger, 16 people between the age of 45 and 55, and 52 people between the age of 55 and 64. This demographic really hits home for me since my dad died several years ago at the age of 62. All of those 560 deaths are heartbreaking, but some of them are surely leaving young children behind who are now without one of their parents. So many of the deaths in my community and throughout the nation and world were people who should have had a long life left to live.

Me getting my Covid vaccine

I feel so fortunate to have received my Covid shot already. I am incredibly thankful for the likely protection it provides me to avoid getting seriously ill or dying from this virus. For anyone with any hesitancy in getting vaccinated, please consider this perspective from a guy without much medical expertise but who has now taken a quick peek behind the scene of a hospital full of Covid patients:

  • The vast majority of Americans are already protected from Polio, Rabies, Mumps, Measles, and a whole host of other diseases thanks to similar vaccines, with virtually no major side effects.
  • Hundreds of millions of people throughout the United States have received the Covid vaccine, also with virtually no major side effects.
  • “Breakthrough cases” do happen, but the amount of vaccinated people who have contracted Covid and suffered major illness or death is such a tiny amount compared to the unvaccinated. The vaccine appears to be working as designed, not neccessarily to protect you 100% from contracting Covid, but to very likely protect you (95%+) from serious illness or death as a result of contracting Covid.
  • Whereas Covid is “novel,” meaning it is new and something that scientists haven’t been able to study very much, the vaccine manufacturing and approval process, even for emergency use authorization, is quite longstanding and successfull.
  • That same doctor that you have always trusted for everything from overseeing your child’s birth to treating your prior illnesses is recommending that you get vaccinated. The same doctors and medical science that you would likely not refuse should you come down with a Covid infection and need treatment are the ones assuring you that the vaccine is not only safe, but neccessary. Why not listen to their advice sooner rather than later?

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3 Comments

  1. Robert

    I do have to say this is more +++ and uplifting. Like your writing style and the prose flows.

  2. Shauna

    From the bottom of my heart, thank you. This is on point and a refreshing break from the bashing and skepticism that I hear every day. As a healthcare professional I am angry and I am tired. I lay here awake though exhausted. Knowing that the sooner I fall asleep the faster another day will come ….
    Over the past 18 months I have worked as a Covid RN and an RN transfer coordinator. The second is a role that is focused on transferring patients to a higher level of care. Hospitals around the state are full and in code red. Their EDs are often on divert status meaning they have told the ambulance companies not to come there as they can’t handle anymore patients….We have critically ill patients waiting hours sometimes days to get a bed or sometimes just a green light for us to transfer them to an ED of a hospital that offers the specialty service they need. These are peoples parents, children, friends, and family members.
    Think about that for a minute. We are talking about stokes and heart attacks that usually get right in and to the back but they are waiting for hours. The conditions are like a third world country at this point. I do my best for every patient. I don’t stop calling, dialing hospital after hospital, over and over again asking for a bed. I call them over and over again for the same patient praying they will let me send them to them.
    They are full, in code red on caution or divert. They want to help but they simply cannot. They have patients flooding their EDs, many are very sick from missing preventive screenings and many more have Covid. Their units are full or closed due to staff sick with Covid or quarantined. Under non pandemic circumstances going on divert is an extreme measure and rare occurrence.

    Meanwhile I attended a school board meeting last night where parents are not following CDC recommendations to reduce spread and angry that their kids are being asked to do so. Yelling anger about masks and insinuating that we are overreacting about Covid and the effects on the healthcare system and the effects of the virus. A local pediatrician was invited by the board as a consult to give recommendations. People in the audience were rude and picked apart her words, which were evidence based facts on the current virus characteristics and transmission. The audacity of these people is embarrassing.
    As a healthcare professional who has been working as an RN for 17 years, this last year has been the hardest and most stressful time of my career. I love my job and have always loved it despite the challenges. Today, I wonder if it’s time to move on. The situation we are in was preventable with a simple safe and effective vaccine.
    Between the stress at work and advocating for my children and the staff at their schools, I am emotionally and physically exhausted.
    Thank you for taking the time to go in and to write this.

  3. Lindsay Pavelka

    Thank you, Scott. My husband is a physician in this same ER and I have never seen him so exhausted and burned out. I really can’t thank you enough for writing this all out, and for taking the time to just CARE. I hope it’s ok with you that I will share this on Facebook.

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