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“You have a tremendous level of emotional fatigue:”

Healthcare workers prepare for spread of omicron
Published: Jan. 7, 2022 at 5:59 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - As COVID-19 case numbers reach an all-time high in Arizona, hospitals are feeling the pressure.

This all comes as the omicron variant spreads and emergency rooms see an increase in patients due to COVID-19. The stress in the ER is also weighing heavily on healthcare workers who are entering into a third year of trying to save people’s lives from the coronavirus.

“We’re all pretty emotionally singed from this and I know it is driving some pretty good people away from medicine entirely,” Pima County supervisor and healthcare worker, Dr. Matt Heinz said.

Experts say we are only seeing the beginning stages of the omicron variant and Dr. Heinz is concerned how this surge could impact hospitals and healthcare workers.

“You have a tremendous level of emotional fatigue. Moral injury is how I think it can be very well described. Healthcare workers, we’ve really kind of had it with the plague. We’re done,” he said.

He says a third or more of the ICU beds in Pima County and across the state are occupied by COVID patients. While COVID patients don’t take up the majority, it could turn into a much bigger issue if there was a major incident that required hospitalization.

″ICU bed capacity essentially being at zero as it pretty much is every day and every night here, is very dangerous. God forbid, any mass event or trauma of some kind,” he said.

The increase in COVID patients is also impacting how quickly some people will be seen and treated in the ER.

“Wait times across the county and state have gone up in ER’s. If you are admitted to the hospital, the wait time can unfortunately be hours and hours to get you placed in the right bed because space is so tight in terms of those numbers,” Dr. Heinz explained.

There’s something else clogging up emergency rooms: COVID testing.

”We’re certainly hearing from our hospital partners that they are seeing more people than typical coming into the ER who don’t actually need emergency medical care, but are seeking testing for covid-19,” Jessica Ringler from the state health department said.

There is a significant demand for testing in Arizona. While there are long wait times for testing even with appointments, she says getting tested at an ER is not a good alternative.

“This is a practice we strongly discourage. We know that people are very interested in being tested, but out hospitals are stretched thin and we really need to ensure that we are preserving that hospital capacity,” Ringler said.

If you are needing to get tested for COVID-19, the Pima County Health Department has a number of free testing sites. Appointments are required.

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