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'People Lined Up Out The Doors And They're Sick': COVID Patient Bottleneck Has Many Minnesotans Desperate

Originally published Nov. 22, 2021

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Dozens of Minnesota hospitals have no beds available to care for sick kids or adults right now.

The Minnesota Department of Health reports more than three quarters of the state's ICU beds are full, and 52 hospitals can't take any more patients at all.

Dr. Dan Hoody is chief medical officer of Hennepin Healthcare, the state's biggest provider. He tells WCCO they can't even take patients from smaller hospitals anymore.

"Because we have so many patients in our hospital emergency department waiting to get in the hospital, we have lost the ability and the bed capacity to safely accept many transfers from throughout the region," Dr. Hoody said. "This is commonly us having to decline five to 50 transfers a day."

Capacity remains a big concern heading into the Thanksgiving holiday. WCCO found how a COVID-19 surge and staffing shortages have left families in need of a hospital bed struggling to find one.

When Christy Feist's daughter woke up Saturday, she knew Annika needed a doctor.

"Her needing a bed can come up at any time for any number of things," Feist said.

The 9-year-old suffers from a rare neurological disorder and seizures. It was a viral pneumonia that lead to their latest trip to the emergency room. Only this time, a process that typically takes two to three hours to locate a bed took much longer.

"It's usually a long process, but not 12, 13, 14 hours, whatever it was we did on Saturday," Feist said.

Annika eventually settled in at 1 a.m. Sunday at Children's Minnesota in Minneapolis where she's now improving.

COVID Patient Hospital Bed
(credit: CBS)

In Wyoming, Minnesota, Cheryl Edstrom is a vaccinated nursing home worker who got sick with COVID-19 two weeks ago. She also cares for her 96-year-old mother at home who took a bad fall while Edstrom was resting downstairs.

"She had been laying there for hours because I was too sick to go," Edstrom said.

Edstrom's mom went to one hospital, and eventually she drove herself to another as her oxygen levels dropped.

"They admitted me but they didn't have any beds, so they were keeping me in the emergency room," Edstrom said.

After receiving antiviral meds and waiting 16 hours in the ER, Edstrom decided others needed a bed worse than she did.

"It was heartbreaking. There's like people lined up out the doors and they're sick," she said.

To make matters worse, it tragically took someone to die at a nearby nursing home for her mom to find care while Edstrom fully recovers at home.

"I know how to get people into beds, I know how to do it and I couldn't. There was nothing anywhere. The whole system is just flattened by this," she said.

Both families urge COVID-19 vaccines, boosters and masks in public settings that they believe will help prevent more people from being hospitalized.

The hospital in Wyoming is one of 10 owned by Fairview, where half of that hospital system's ICU capacity is filled with COVID-19 patients right now.

Children's Minnesota says about a dozen kids with the virus are currently hospitalized.

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