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Pittsburgh Hospitals Have Been 'Running Near Capacity For Weeks,' Doctors Say

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - Some hospitals around western Pennsylvania are going through another COVID surge. Doctors tell KDKA's Amy Wadas it's the second highest peak of the pandemic, but they say it's different this time around.

Doctors at UPMC and other hospitals in the area say they're not just seeing an increase in COVID patients. They're also seeing more people coming into the hospital for other things like heart attacks, strokes and even some flu cases.

"We've been running near capacity for weeks now," said UPMC Chief Medical Officer Dr. Donald Yealy.

Yealy says hospitals are straining right now.

In addition to an increase in COVID patients and people coming to the hospital with other illnesses, they're still dealing with staff shortages.

"With many more seeking care, many more severe forms of illness and the strain on the workforce, it has taken longer in some cases to start care," said Yealy.

It's resulted in longer ER wait times, something Yealy says has gone up over the past few weeks. Hospitals are also dealing with staffing issues at nursing homes.

"There's the throughput, the availability of nursing homes because they're also affected with staffing so that's also limited," said Dr. Don Whiting at Allegheny Health Network.

Whiting said transfers from smaller community hospitals is another thing to add.

"There are a lot of calls for transfers for different things that can't be managed in community hospitals," said Whiting.

Doctors say they try to accommodate transfers, but in some cases, they can't. Butler Memorial Hospital says it had more COVID cases in its hospital last week than any other time during the pandemic. Butler's spokesperson went on to say the larger hospitals are usually out of beds to transfer patients to.

"The community hospitals are elevating the level of care they give and people they keep because they know it's harder to transfer people," said Dr. Whiting.

Doctors at both UPMC and AHN say they're able to accommodate patients who need treatment in the ICU and those who need ventilators. Whiting says the need isn't as high in that area as it was this time last year, as COVID cases aren't as severe.

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