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Delaware's largest hospitals implement crisis standards to manage overwhelming COVID hospitalizations

Nick Ciolino
Delaware Public Media

Many of Delaware’s hospital systems are implementing crisis standards because of a record breaking surge in cases of COVID-19.

Delaware continues to break records for COVID-19 infections. As of Sunday, the state is reporting an average of almost 2,800 new cases per day. In comparison, the highest spike the state ever recorded previously was around 850 cases per day a year ago.

Hospitalizations are also shooting sky-high. For almost two weeks, the state hospitalization numbers have been going above and beyond any previous high since the beginning of the pandemic. 714 Delawareans are currently hospitalized.

In response to this unprecedented demand, four of Delaware's largest hospital systems announced the implementation of Crisis Standards: including ChristanaCare, Bayhealth, TidalHealth Nanticoke and Saint Francis Hospital.

ChristianaCare Chief Physician Ken Silverstein says the Crisis Standards will mean prioritizing care to those who need it most.

“It could go all the way up to the situation with monoclonal antibodies — that’s the treatment you’ve heard about that’s given to patients as outpatients when they are diagnosed with COVID,” he says. “And those medications are in short supply and so we have to clinically prioritize who should get those medications.”

Silverstein describes a few more examples of what the standards mean to patients — hospital nutritionists don’t have the capacity to serve every patient a hot meal, and will need to determine which patients get a hot meal every day.

And nurses, who help administer medications to many patients daily, will need to determine which patients need to get their medications at the prescribed time; versus which might be able to wait an hour.

Silverstein says these crisis standards aren’t sustainable.

“The health care system is in dire circumstances and we need the community to be aware of that cause we need the community to work with us to mitigate the spread of the disease,” Silverstein says. “COVID is what’s causing the overwhelming volume.”

He says their hospitals have been over 100 percent capacity for weeks now, and 40 percent of their patients are COVID-positive.

The hospitals are urging everyone to get vaccinated and boosted as soon as possible, vaccination can minimize the chance of hospitalization — and people should avoid visiting the emergency room unless it’s urgent.

Gov. John Carney has also mobilized more members of the National Guard to come and help. On top of 100 members training to become Certified Nursing Assistants and help at Delaware’s nursing facilities, Carney announced an additional 70 members will be deployed as non-clinical workers in hospitals across the state, to help alleviate staffing shortages and let medical staff focus on helping patients.

Roman Battaglia is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.

Roman Battaglia grew up in Portland, Ore, and now reports for Delaware Public Media as a Report For America corps member. He focuses on politics, elections and legislation activity at the local, county and state levels.
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