Join with me in a New Year’s prayer that we and our loved ones can stay out of hospitals and their emergency rooms during 2022.

Huh?

Nothing against hospitals and ERs. On the contrary, they have saved my life several times over the past three years. The following headlines from across Mississippi explain my prayer.

“Shortage of healthcare workers reaching ‘critical’ point at Mississippi hospitals” – WLOX.com in Biloxi.

“Mississippi hospitals ask leaders for help amid nursing shortage” – WJTV.com in Jackson.

“Healthcare leaders describe nursing shortage at Mississippi Senate hearing” – Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal in Tupelo.

During 2021 I visited ERs four times, most recently last Wednesday afternoon. The room was packed, but not with COVID patients. These were people with a wide array of health issues, all jammed up waiting for their chance to be seen. I saw ER patients who had been waiting 12 to 15 hours to move through the system. Staff told me at times the wait was even longer.

We knew ERs and hospitals were backed up during the COVID peaks, but why now?

The nursing shortage.

To understand that we need to understand patient flow through ERs. Patients get triaged then placed in ER beds. Some are fortunate enough to get treated and go home. Others must move on to intensive care beds or hospital beds. When those beds are not available, the ER must hold them until an opening occurs. That backs up patient flow.

Kim Hoover, the Chief Operating Officer for the Mississippi Hospital Association, explained that just because hospitals have unoccupied hospital and ICU beds doesn’t mean they can put patients in them. Sufficient nursing staff must be available to service those beds. Without sufficient staff, hospitals have to close beds down.

A Greenwood Commonwealth story explained that nurse, therapist, and technician shortages forced Greenwood Leflore Hospital to close beds and divert patients elsewhere. “At one point earlier this month, the closest hospital with an open and staffed bed was in Arkansas.”

Last week my doctor attempted to admit me directly to the hospital to receive intravenous antibiotics. But a bed was not available. Instead he sent me to the ER to begin the drip and wait for a room. I was fortunate. My wait was only seven hours.

Hoover told legislators that 50 hospitals have reported 950 registered nurse vacancies. She said many quit after becoming burnt out during the pandemic and others left to become contract or travel nurses to obtain far higher wages out of state.

Millions in federal dollars are available to help ease this crisis in Mississippi. But until the governor and legislative leaders decide to help, the situation can only worsen.

Pray they will help. Then as you pray that you and yours can stay well, pray more for those who cannot.

PS: I lift up the many nurses and doctors who have gone to such great lengths to provide me excellent care over the past three years. Their service and benevolence under stress overwhelms me.

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” – Thessalonians 5:16-18.

Crawford is a syndicated columnist from Jackson.

 

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