Hospital staff shortages are causing at hospitals to close beds. In Michigan, two of the largest health systems, Beaumont Health and Henry Ford Health System, have recently announced closure of a combined 300 beds, 180 and 120 respectively.
The national shortage of staff, in particular nursing, staff pre-existed the pandemic and has only exacerbated by Covid-19. Nationally, demand for intensive care and emergency nurses increased 186% during 2020. It comes due to a combined effect of early retirement/burn out and the increase demand for one to one patient care requiring specialized training to operate machines such as ECMO.
ECMO, extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, oxygenates a patient’s blood outside then pumping it back in. This machine is the highest level of life support available to patients as it basically functions as a heart and lung outside the body. Patients receiving care on ECMO must receive one-on-one nursing care 24 hours a day and requires the most attention. The labor-intensive process further pushes to high rate of burn-out amongst nurses and thereby forcing the cycle to repeat.
While some hospitals have taken the step to limit hospital beds, others are forcing nurses to far exceed the 1:1 requirement. At a recent evening in a Metro-Detroit area hospital a nurse identified that the ICU department was so short staffed that they were on a 3:1 ratio, with several patients on ECMO machines and the entire Emergency Department was staffed with only 2 nurses.
Gurrajan is a trial attorney at Grewal Law, PLLC. He represents victims and families in personal injury and wrongful death claims. His primary focus is on medical malpractice claims, specializing in airway complications and surgical errors.