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Two-Thirds Of Ky. Hospitals Seeing Critical Staff Shortage

Coronavirus cells
Argonne National Laboratory
Coronavirus cells

Last week marked an unwanted distinction for Kentucky. The state broke records for daily case count, and the number of people hospitalized, in the ICU and on ventilators. 

The strain on the state’s health care workers is growing more extreme.

At a press conference Thursday, Gov. Andy Beshear announced that 62 out of the 96 hospitals in the state were experiencing critical staff shortages.

“And what I believe it means is that not only do you know you don’t have enough staff, but you are terribly worried about the next day and what that can mean,” Beshear said. “It certainly means that you don’t have enough staff for the entire capacity.”

Hospitals could start reaching capacity for the number of patients they can take care of while still having beds open.

Much like the school closures, the problem goes back to the lack of staff.

In addition to staffing issues, hospitals in the commonwealth are beginning to run low on supplies. 

“We’re seeing a shortage of IV pumps and vital sign machines. So now it’s impacting even the everyday operation of the hospital beyond just needing the monoclonal antibodies and oxygen or some individual things for COVID patients,” Beshear said Thursday.

He said some supplies are easier to come by. Others, like the 40 ventilators Kentucky received from the national stockpile, require more planning and coordination with leaders at the federal level. 

Beshear has also requested additional medical personnel from FEMA. That includes nurses, EMTs and people trained to give monoclonal antibody treatments, which has proven to be one of the most effective responses to early-stage COVID-19.

The state is also working to handle some aspects of health care that are currently preventing workers from being on the floor.

“We’ve taken over their [COVID-19] testing to again free up those who were doing it,”  Beshear said.

The Kentucky National Guard has been deployed to help with some of this work.

Guard members will also be stationed at food pantries and have been approved to be used in any capacity through the end of the calendar year.

Beshear is expected to call a special legislative session on COVID-19 to vote on issues such as extending the state emergency as early as Tuesday. 

State COVID-19 numbers as well as information about testing and vaccines can be found on the Kentucky COVID-19 resource page.

Breya Jones is the Arts & Culture Reporter for LPM. Email Breya at bjones@lpm.org.