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Ohio Hospitals Declining Patients from Other States

On Friday, 2,127 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 in the state, the fourth consecutive day with hospitalizations over 2,000. The last time hospitalizations were above 2,000 was in early February, when vaccines were still hard to get.

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(TNS) - Ohio's coronavirus hospitalization rate is not at the level seen in Texas , but it's increasing and to shore up beds, the state's hospitals have started to decline transfer requests from other states.

On Friday, 2,127 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 in the state, the fourth consecutive day with hospitalizations over 2,000. The last time hospitalizations were above 2,000 was in early February, when vaccines were still hard to get.

Hospitals on Friday were at 76.3% of capacity, when adding coronavirus patients and people treated for other conditions. Intensive-care units in Ohio were at 74.6% of capacity and ventilators were at 33.7%.

The vaccine protects people from severe illness and hospitalization, and the vast majority of those who have been hospitalized since the beginning of the year have not been fully vaccinated.

Gov. Mike DeWine hasn't implemented any new mask mandates as the delta variant soars. Only 51.6% of Ohioans have received the vaccine, which is still far from herd immunity.

Dr. Robert Wyllie , chief medical operations officer of the Cleveland Clinic ., said that the wave of coronavirus patients taking hospitals to capacity has started in the American South and moved north.

"So we originally saw infection in Arkansas , Missouri and Louisiana , spreading from Texas all the way to Florida ," Wyllie said. "And then coming up north, travelling through Tennessee , Kentucky , and then into southern Illinois , Indiana and Ohio , and it's sprinting up to the middle and northern part of all those states."

Patient transfers

Recently, an emergency management company to put a Texas COVID-19 patient on a fix-winged airplane for treatment in Ohio , said Dr. Andy Thomas , chief clinical officer at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center . There was no capacity in Texas and nearby states such as Louisiana and Oklahoma lacked capacity.

"And unfortunately we knew this train was coming down the tracks and made the decision to not engage in that discussion to transfer patients from Texas here," Thomas said during a press conference Friday afternoon when hospital administrators discussed the situation in their facilities.

Thomas said that unless an out-of-state resident has an existing relationship with OSU , for instance if they were a cancer patient, it is declining to treat non- Ohio residents during this surge.

UC Health tries to work as a tristate region with Kentucky and Indiana . But it also received a transfer request that it had to decline, said Dr. Richard Lofgren , the hospital's president and CEO.

"We just recently got a phone call from a request to transfer a patient from Alabama , requiring an emergency surgery on the aorta because they couldn't find anybody from their area," he said. "Frankly we are at capacity, we weren't able to accommodate them."

Cleveland Clinic is trying to accommodate people in areas where it has a specialty. For instance, the clinic performs the most organ transplants in the U.S. , and if a non-resident who had recovered from COVID-19 needed a lung transplant, the clinic would try to accommodate them, Wyllie said.

Workload balance

Despite not accepting transfers from faraway states, hospitals continue to work together in zones that the state created in April 2020 , at the beginning of the pandemic.

"If one hospital is full, we will shift patients to another hospital. We'll transfer people up from Columbiana County up to the Akron area, and from Akron to Cleveland , from Toledo to Cleveland , from Youngstown to Cleveland or Akron , just depending on where we need to load balance so no individual hospital gets overwhelmed," Wyllie said.

Wyllie said that hospital administrators among the three zones also discuss patient loads and potentially transferring people among zones. Coronavirus patients, especially if they're on ventilators, require more staff care than other hospital patients.

Staff strains

Hospitals are starting to show staffing strains.

"One of the things that's happened is we all started losing staff as people started to wither a little bit under the tedium of a year in a half of infection and dealing with these very, very sick patients in the ICU, and watching fatalities at a fairly rapid rate compared to our usual number of patients in the hospital," Wyllie said.

Wyllie explained that there is an emotional toll on staff who have cared for patients through the beginning of their illness and through the end of their lives, as family visits can be limited.

This story will be updated.

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