“It keeps coming:” KRMC workers tired of COVID | Kingman Daily Miner
KINGMAN – Every day at Kingman Regional Medical Center, healthcare workers wear personal protective equipment ready to serve their community for a variety of medical needs. However, COVID-19 continues to fill hospital rooms in Arizona’s least-vaccinated county, where healthcare workers are bracing for another year of devastation and exhaustion.
As 2022 approaches understaffed with the ever-growing omicron variant, nurses at KRMC shared that they felt like they were preparing for battle. With peaks in recent weeks, Sarah Schritter, RN, head of nursing practices at KRMC, said currently 34.48% of people positive for COVID-19 are hospitalized, or one in three positive cases. As of Tuesday, January 4, the hospital had 56 new positive cases and in the past 30 days it had 736.
As of November, 38-44% of KRMC patients are linked to COVID-19 and 75% of the 14 intensive care beds have been occupied by COVID-19 patients.
As workers take additional shifts and are accompanied by agency staff to help fill vacancies, that’s not enough, said Leslie Martin, KRMC’s assistant chief nurse.
âThey’re tired, and they’re exhausted and they’re struggling, to be honest,â Martin said.
Currently, KRMC has more than 20 nursing positions and 12 intensive care unit and progressive care unit positions available, said Jim Wells, director of nursing at KRMC. Due to COVID-19 and the care every positive patient needs, the hospital is overloaded. KRMC is licensed for 235 beds, however, that doesn’t mean they can staff those 235 beds, Wells said. Health workers from other departments have been redeployed to help cope with the influx of COVID-19 patients at KRMC.
With COVID-19 patients, Wells said the nursing ratio differs. For example, a group of six COVID-19 patients currently requires two nurses compared to a normal nurse.
âPart of this staffing problem that I think people don’t understand is thatâ¦ because of all the extra work and dress we have to put on that requires more nurses,â Wells said.
To ensure the safety of healthcare workers, PPE must be worn when caring for COVID-19 patients, which takes time to put on and disinfect. Schritter said every aspect of the hospital has had to adapt to COVID-19 to keep staff and patients safe. From the intensive care unit to the front desk to the kitchen, the hospital community must constantly navigate the way they provide care.
âIt creates a lot of stress for the organization, trying to manage all of this while protecting all of our patients in the hospital,â Wells said.
Schritter also said COVID-19 patients arrive sicker, stay in hospital longer, and use more oxygen. KRMC hospital director Dr Will Urueta shared x-ray images of ‘COVID-19 lungs’ compared to healthy lungs.
Healthy lungs, which show black spots on an x-ray, show normal blood tissue and air. However, COVID-19’s lungs look milky or like a white veil due to a snowstorm. Infected lungs give off a milky appearance because they are not able to exchange oxygen in the normal way.
While respiratory disease is sometimes compared to the flu or the common cold, the comparison is inaccurate because the disease attacks an individual’s lungs, Urueta said. COVID-19 can also produce long-term effects that are relatively unknown and may impact heart function, taste and smell, and cognitive functions.
Adam Dawson, medical director of Innova’s emergency department, said worker shortages as well as COVID-19 at KRMC have become so severe that they are sending some COVID-19 patients home with oxygen if they reach the appropriate levels.
âWhat we’ve never done before, some of these patients are coming home with new oxygen requirements,â Dawson said. “So we’re actually sending oxygen tanks and equipment home with the patient.”
With nurses and doctors stretched out, emergency rooms backed up, and sick people occupying rooms longer, the hospital has less flexibility to accommodate the sick and injured. Although they don’t turn anyone away, the hospital is postponing elective surgeries to a later date due to limited resources.
Urueta said that from a human perspective, the past two years have been extremely trying for healthcare workers. Wells said a nurse who retired last week said she has seen more deaths in the past two years than in her career.
âWe have seen doctors openly cry over the situation that is going on,â Urueta said. âAnd despite that, they continue to provide care. ”
Will McConnell, president and CEO of KRMC, said they were feeling fatigue because there had been no break with COVID-19.
âThat’s where most of the fatigue comes from. It keeps coming, âMcConnell said.
Urueta said the largest number of intensive care patients and deaths are unvaccinated people. He said another challenge they face is mistrust among patients. By consulting pharmacists, new data and experiences, caregivers aim to display care and information on a daily basis.
âThey question the treatments we offer; they suggest unrealistic or unproven treatments, âUrueta said. âAnd we have to navigate all of this professionally, as much as we can. “
Once an unvaccinated individual arrives in the ICU, the death rate is “extremely high,” Urueta said. Prevention is the best way to avoid reaching a critical stage. According to Urueta and Schritter, treatment with monoclonal antibodies is available, but patients must qualify and show symptoms within the last 10 days. However, vaccines are the best way to prevent hospitalization and death.
âWe want the community to be doing very well in Kingman and we want it to be at a healthy level and not in this unnecessary situation,â Urueta said.
Ivermectin inquiries have been received by KRMC staff, however, KRMC and many medical associations do not support ivermectin treatment for COVID-19. McConnell also mentioned that ivermectin maker Merck has said the drug should not be used to treat COVID-19.
The Mohave County Public Health Department has yet to report an omicron case, so the hospital is uncertain how the variant will perform in a predominantly unvaccinated county. KRMC nurses and doctors are calling on the community to take preventative measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 so they can access resources for other health care needs or emergencies, such as heart attack.
Health workers reiterated that regardless of whether a patient is vaccinated or not, they will receive care. As an apolitical entity, the hospital’s job is to provide care to patients, regardless of their beliefs or background.
However, it is also their job to provide information and resources that can prevent people from suffering from a preventable outcome, Urueta said. This includes accurate information and access to approved drugs and vaccines to treat and prevent COVID-19.
âWe will always provide the safest care possible,â said McConnell. “We’re entering an environment where if the push continues, we don’t know what the real impact of that (will be) until we’re there.”