The largest hospital in Alaska is beginning to ration care as COVID-19 patients flood the facility.
“While we are doing our utmost, we are no longer able to provide the standard of care to each and every patient who needs our help,” Dr. Kristen Solana Walkinshaw, chief of staff at Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage, wrote in an op-ed published Tuesday by The Anchorage Daily News. “The acuity and number of patients now exceeds our resources and our ability to staff beds with skilled caregivers, like nurses and respiratory therapists. We have been forced within our hospital to implement crisis standards of care.”
“What does this mean? In short, we are faced with a situation in which we must prioritize scarce resources and treatments to those patients who have the potential to benefit most,” she continued. “We have been required to develop and enact policies and procedures to ration medical care and treatments, including dialysis and specialized ventilatory support.”
Walkinshaw explained how what happens at Providence Alaska Medical Center and other hospitals in Alaska’s biggest city “impacts our entire state” because “many specialty cares can only be provided in Anchorage.”
“People from all around Alaska depend on Providence to provide medical care for people statewide. Unfortunately, we are unable to continue to meet this need; we no longer have the staff, the space or the beds,” she wrote. “Due to this scarcity, we are unable to provide lifesaving care to everyone who needs it. Our emergency room is overflowing; patients wait in their cars for hours to see a physician for emergency care. On a daily basis, our transfer center is unable to accept patients who sit in emergency rooms and hospitals across the state, people who need care their current facility is unable to provide. If you or your loved one need specialty care at Providence, such as a cardiologist, trauma surgeon or a neurosurgeon, we sadly may not have room now. There are no more staffed beds left.”
Walkinshaw urged people to wear face masks, even if they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and to get the vaccine if they are eligible and have not done so yet.
“We ask that you help us to open our beds again so that we may continue to care for all Alaskans,” she wrote.