Medical staff weary from pandemic duties, suffering trauma and PTSD in some cases, eroded trust in hospitals, and frustration due to insufficient and unpredictable vaccines supply were only some of the problems cited in a new report on US hospitals, CNN reported. The report was released Wednesday by the Department of Health and Human Services inspector general.
A New Report Highlights Dire Conditions At Hospitals
According to Ann Maxwell, assistant inspector general for evaluations and inspections who spoke to CNN, hospitals had reported challenges related largely to the continued intensity of dealing with Covid for a year. The challenges that came with Covid added to the longstanding challenges in staffing, financial stability, and healthcare delivery. She added one also had the vaccination efforts adding to the strain, which was a new addition.
The report surveyed over 300 hospitals across the country from February 22-26 on how the coronavirus pandemic had impacted them. According to commentators, it painted a dire picture of the toll on America’s health system from a year of treating the global pandemic. It also highlighted the stress of survival mode operation over the protracted period that those within it had been subjected to.
According to one hospital president who spoke to HHS, the pandemic had really burnt out the health care industry. He added he was concerned about what could be done about making people want to opt for health care as a profession.
According to hospitals, long hours, time away from family, more shifts and increased responsibilities due to the pandemic had left staff mentally fatigued, exhausted and at times suffering possible PTSD. According to some administrators, increased deaths, including among coworkers, and the fact that pandemic restrictions had led to staff being the only person present at the time of death having taken a significant toll on many.
One administrator told HHS that long-term solutions for fatigue in staff, possible PTSD and compassion fatigue would need to be identified so that staff could be helped to care for themselves, their families, and patients.
Due to the challenges, medical staff had to face, a turnover rate that was higher than normal had been seen, which led to shortages that, in some cases, impacted the patient care quality, as per the report.
According to some hospital administrators, they were faced with new questions from their patients on whether hospitals were safe and could keep patients safe due to fears of contracting the virus in the hospital. According to some, this might be, in part, be due to the confusion over public health guidelines that were evolving.
In the absence of clear guidance from the federal government, hospitals had been forced to set up their own infrastructures to distribute and store coronavirus vaccines. Such efforts, in many instances, worsened staff shortages caused by the pandemic, health officials reported. In their communication with HHS, hospitals voiced their frustration over the supply of the vaccines as it was unpredictable, and they often got scant advance notice regarding changes in quantities, and the doses received many times were not what was expected.
Hospitals pointed out that the initial vaccine rollout caused increased challenges due to many reasons, including staff vaccine hesitancy. A number of administrators said that around a third of their staff did not want to be vaccinated due to vaccine trust deficit over its rapid development, effectiveness, and other reasons. To make matters worse, differing guidelines and inconsistent information over vaccine eligibility from state, federal, and local governments caused confusion and added to the stress on hospitals that were already overburdened.
Due to the multiplicity of data systems across different levels of government, hospital staffers, due to their limited numerical strength, found themselves repeatedly feeding the same vaccination information into systems.