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COVID-19 In Pennsylvania: Southwestern Hospitals Will Have Staffing Shortages In The Next Week, Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine Says

By: KDKA-TV News Staff

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said some southwestern Pennsylvania hospitals will have staffing shortages in the next week.

Dr. Levine held a press conference Thursday, which comes as intensive care units at both Butler Memorial Hospital and Clarion Hospital have reached maximum capacity.

She said because of the explosion of coronavirus cases, hospitals are experiencing problems.

"There are just under 5,000 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Pennsylvania, and of course this number is of significant concern. In addition, there are more than 1,000 COVID-19 patients in intensive care," said Dr. Levine.

"We have seen that a number of counties have only a few intensive care unit beds left, or actually no intensive care unit beds in their county."

She said southwestern Pennsylvania is struggling with staffing and in the next week a third or more of the hospitals in our region will experience staffing shortages.

Pittsburgh-area hospitals are treating more patients than ever. They say they were prepared for this expected fall surge, but they're concerned about the next few weeks.

Both Allegheny Health Network and UPMC say their ICU beds are filling up, but they still have beds available.

UPMC says 85 percent of its ICU beds are full. They're treating about 1,000 COVID patients systemwide.

"We're at the highest number of inpatients with COVID-19 illness or infection across the entire system. That's been a trend that we've seen for weeks now," said UPMC Sr. Medical Director Dr. Donald Yealy.

It's a similar story at AHN, where beds are tight but adequate. Staffing is the big concern.

"Staffing is the thing that we are monitoring and keeping track of, because we do have people off of work with COVID that are going through the process of getting through that," said AHN Chief Medical Officer Don Whiting.

UPMC says the size of its system with numerous hospitals goes a long way towards dealing with the outbreak.

"One of the advantages of a large system is that we can actually move not only patients but assets around so that we meet the needs," said Yealy.

But all are concerned about what's to come. There are projections and fears of an even bigger surge following the holidays.

"We are worried that if the public doesn't really stick with the masking and hand washing and social distancing, particularly during the Christmas holidays, it could really exponentially increase," said Whiting.

There's a couple of things that could help with hospital staffing. Hospital workers will be among the first to get vaccinated and the CDC says they no longer have to quarantine for 14 days, now just 10.

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