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'It Feels Pretty Bleak': Butler Health System's Chief Medical Officer Says Of Wait Times For Emergency Rooms

BUTLER, Pa. (KDKA) -- The chief medical officer of Butler Health System is sending a message about the toll that coronavirus continues to take on his workers and the community.

"Taking care of a very sick, a hospitalized COVID patient is a tremendous amount of work," said Dr. Dave Rottinghaus, the CMO of Butler Health System.

Dr. Rottinghaus said what's happening at Butler Health System is happening around the region and country: There's a significant staffing shortage.

"We think some people decided to leave the bedside for that reason. Other people took an early retirement and other folks just have not returned and you're not always sure why. But there certainly has been an exodus from health care," Dr. Rottinghaus said.

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The doctor said that means fewer nurses, respiratory techs and people to take care of those patients as compared to this time last year. And there are emergent and emergency needs that Dr. Rottinghaus says are impacted.

"It feels pretty bleak as waits in the ERs and boarding in ORs, patients being held in there because there are not beds. Other care is being compromised right now," Rottinghaus said.

About 80 to 90 percent of the COVID-19 admissions are unvaccinated, according to the health system. Dr. Rottinghaus said the very sick are also younger.

"Our ICU is packed routinely with people in their 40s and in their 50s, almost all of them unvaccinated," he said. "The people that we've lost and can't get better who are in their 30s and 40s are unvaccinated."

Dr. Rottinghaus said there are more people infected now and more people becoming seriously ill.

"The best way for people to protect themselves is to be vaccinated," Rottinghaus said.

Dr. Rottinghaus said Butler Health System is continuing to provide counseling, grief and spiritual support to staff, but he's worried about them.

In the parking lot of Butler Memorial Hospital, you'll routinely find a vigil where community members can pray for those inside who are very sick and for those tirelessly caring for them.

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