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Is COVID to Blame for Omaha's Hospital Bed Shortage?

Doctor consoling patient in ICU during COVID-19

Photo: Getty Images

Headlines this week read that "Douglas County hospital beds are at highest occupancy rate since pandemic started" (WOWT). Yesterday, our hospitals were at 92% capacity, which is the highest I've seen in looking at the daily numbers for the past 15 months.

But is this completely due to COVID? No.

Yesterday, there were 206 COVID patients in local hospitals, and the total occupancy rate (all people in hospitals) was at 92%.

But, last November, we had 400+ people in the hospital with COVID for two weeks straight. The occupancy rate at that time fluctuated from a low of 70% to a high of 81% during those 14 days.

The difference? Staff. We weren't experiencing a staff shortage due to burnout and vaccine mandates, so the staff could accommodate more patients to fill the beds.

We have the same number of beds today, but not as many staff members to treat patients. Same as when you go into a restaurant lately, and there are plenty of open tables, but there are customers waiting to be seated because the restaurant doesn't have enough staff to serve everyone at all those tables.

Today's numbers were just released as I type this: Down to 198 COVID patients here, and an occupancy rate of 88%. (Eight fewer COVID patients accounts for less than 1% of all rooms in the county.)

This problem isn't just a COVID issue; it's a staffing issue.

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