LINCOLN, Neb. (KMTV) — On Thursday, Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts said a staffing crisis, brought on by an increase in hospitalizations, is putting a strain on hospitals in the state. He is declaring a hospital staffing emergency and to help care for patients, a Directed Health Measure (DHM) will go into effect Monday which limits some procedures and cuts red tape for healthcare workers who want to offer their services.
The surgeries which will be impacted are class D surgeries which can be delayed for 4-12 weeks, similar to what was in effect prior to the proliferation of vaccines.
“Some of the hospitals are already taking steps to be able to do that," Ricketts said. "But we’re going to make it mandatory here in Nebraska to help free up hospital capacity.”
While the percentage of occupied hospital beds is nearing the percentage seen during the height of the pandemic, COVID-19 patients account for about 22% fewer beds.
The state provided the following breakdown:
|Nov 20 2020 (Peak Conditions)||Nov 20 2020 (Peak Conditions)||Aug 25 2021||Aug 25 2021|
|Available beds||1,165 of 4,239||29% available||1,045 of 4,207||25% of available|
|COVID-19 Hospitalizations||987||32% of hospitalizations||337||11% of hospitalizations|
|NON-COVID-19 hospitalizations||2,087||68% of hospitalizations||2,825||89% of hospitalizations|
Ricketts said more DHM's could be on the way if things do not improve and says the state will be following a similar criteria as last year, based on state COVID-19 hospitalization occupancy rates.
COVID-19 data on a statewide level is only available on a weekly basis, and hospital occupancy rates are not listed - just the number of hospitalizations.
“The staffing issue, am I open to further measures? Yes absolutely," Ricketts said. "So this is a preliminary step to address the hospital staffing emergency we have right now, but we’ll continue to watch what happens to hospitalizations and then make further steps down the roads.”
Ricketts also said he is still against mask mandates, vaccine mandates and vaccine passports but that vaccines are the best tool in fighting the virus and preventing hospitalizations.
As to whether mask mandates should be imposed at schools, Ricketts said he doesn’t support them and instead believes it should be up to parents and their children.
"I'm against the idea that we mandate those masks in schools," Ricketts said. "I think that's something that should be voluntary, something the school district's can work on with parents."
For those who may be on the fence and were waiting for more information before getting vaccinated, Ricketts pointed to the full approval from the FDA for Pfizer’s vaccine as a reason to consider it. If that’s not enough, he said people should talk to their doctors.
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