Weary hospital staffs battle omicron spike


Associated Prress

While schools can close campuses because of the omicron spike, hospitals have no such luxury.

With staffs already stretched thin after nearly two years of combating the pandemic, hospitals now face a crush of patients as the highly contagious variant sweeps through Nevada.

"This is a wave, like many of the waves we've seen with COVID, except this wave has been worse in terms of patient volumes and numbers than we have ever seen in the past,” said Dr. Cole Sondrup, emergency department medical director for Southern Hills Hospital.

“More people are getting sick with omicron than have gotten sick in any of the other ways with any of the other variants."

He said that while COVID is a respiratory disease, patients are arriving with a variety of symptoms.

“We're seeing a lot of people who come in because they're weak and dizzy, who are later testing positive for COVID,” Sondrup told State of Nevada. “The people who are very sick are mostly the unvaccinated and the elderly.”

Even as the Nevada Hospital Association declared a staffing shortage at some facilities, Sondrup said his hospital is "getting by," and "the people that I interact with, still have a very positive attitude." 

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"Every day we hear new recommendations and new expert advice that maybe there's an end in sight, and I think that provides a little bit of hope for all of us," Sondrup said. "Unfortunately, there are a lot of things happening right now that make it very difficult to be a healthcare worker."

The doctor offered some general advice on navigating the omicron surge:

  • Don’t go to the emergency room for a COVID test. Hospitals no longer provide routine COVID tests to walk-ins, even though  “absolutely, people are coming seeking tests.” Sondrup said, “and unfortunately, the majority of them are not getting a COVID test.”
  • Consider purchasing a pulse oximeter. The $20 gadget checks blood oxygen levels, and Sondrup said “if your oxygen percentage is less than 90% or if you're just so sick, you can't take care of yourself, those are the two reasons where you should go to the hospital.”
  • Basic home treatment. “If you feel well enough to take care of yourself, it's Tylenol, ibuprofen, decongestants and rest at home, just like every other respiratory illness.”
  • No help for coughing. “Nothing works for a cough. People come in all the time because the cough is keeping them up all night long. There isn't a medicine in the world that's going to take care of that.”

Dr. Cole Sondrup, emergency department medical director, Southern Hills Hospital

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