CINCINNATI — At least seven hospitals in southwest Ohio have been at capacity during the first two weeks of 2021 as COVID-19 cases continue to surge in the Tri-State.
EMS crews and dispatchers working during the pandemic have been forced to divert patients as they try to provide the best service possible under extreme conditions. Diversions are used when hospitals are at capacity, but will still accept the most serious cases.
Hamilton County Communications Center records show the University of Cincinnati Medical Center was at capacity for up to 16 hours a day Jan. 1-5. At least three hospitals in southwest Ohio were at capacity on the same day Jan. 2, 3, 5, 10 and 11.
If one facility says it is at capacity, a notification goes out to ensure other places with staff and space can prepare for paramedics with patients. It allows the facility under duress to take a breath and continue to provide care for existing cases, but health officials say few are able to actually take a breath.
Tiffany Mattingly, vice president of The Health Collaborative's clinical strategies, says their "at capacity" designations are at an all-time high.
"This is the most stretched I've seen the hospitals in my experience in this position," Mattingly said.
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On Jan. 4, Good Samaritan Hospital was "over capacity" for about seven hours — the only hospital in the region listed as over capacity so far in 2022.
This week has been particularly challenging at Mercy Health - Clermont Hospital, which was at capacity for part of each day Jan. 10-14. In some cases, hospitals were at capacity for less than one hour. On other days, hospitals were at capacity for most of the day.
Mattingly said staffing is the biggest problem for hospitals now, as health care workers are "just as susceptible" to COVID as everyone else. The problem has created similar conditions at medical centers around the country.
While hospitals have been at capacity, they do not say no to critical conditions like strokes or heart attacks. Mattingly said they are flexible as possible — and patient load is one reason the Ohio National Guard is helping.
"The important thing is, is that if you need medical care — urgent medical care, the emergency departments are open, they are safe, and they are ready to care for you," Mattingly said.
Below are the dates and times local hospitals were at capacity in the first two weeks of January:
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