Last month, a 46-year-old military veteran in Houston died of pancreatitis, an urgent but treatable condition, while waiting to be admitted to a hospital overwhelmed with unvaccinated COVID patients. Last week, the governor of Hawaii signed an executive order releasing the state’s hospitals from liability if they turn away sick patients because they have no room. On Monday, the Idaho state health department declared “crisis standards of care,” a triage system that allows hospitals with no spare beds to decide which patients they will accept.
Simultaneously, a Florida high school teacher went viral after describing how he took his 12-year-old to an emergency room that turned out to be overwhelmed with COVIOD patients. They waited six hours while his child’s appendix ruptured, a potentially life-threatening event. His son survived—after what the dad described as five days in the hospital and an initial $5,000 bill.
Stories of patients unable to get into hospitals—stuck in waiting rooms, lingering in ambulances, life-flighted to other states where there might be an open bed—have been an awful constant during this hot-spot summer. Overcrowding is an obvious threat to their health. But it poses a more subtle threat to already-admitted patients: it creates conditions and demands on hospital staff that allow dangerous infections to spread.
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