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Rural Alaska finding it difficult to transfer patients to Anchorage and other areas due to lack of beds

Published: Sep. 13, 2021 at 9:04 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Hospitals across Alaska and the country are running out of beds, whether that’s for COVID-19 or if someone gets sick or hurt.

In a recent virtual meeting, Alaska Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink said hospitals have moved into the high alert level and a number of hospitals have been unable to accept additional patients.

While emergency rooms remain open for life-saving treatments, a lot of hospitals in Anchorage are unable to take on additional patients, and rural Alaska areas fall into that equation.

“In situations where normally a patient would be sent off now situations are being faced where they have to hunker down in that facility and get by, then again in normal times, that would not happen,” said President and CEO of the Alaska State Hospitals and Nursing Homes Association Jared Kosin.

Kosin said when people get hurt or sick, COVID-19 related or not, sometimes those people would be transferred into a higher level of care in Anchorage or even the Lower 48. But he said those services are getting harder and harder to find for those in rural Alaska.

“And there are very qualified health care providers out there, but we play to our strengths, and when a higher level of care is needed, our resources are concentrated in our higher more populated areas,” Kosin said.

In the last 14 days, the Y-K Delta Region has seen 351 new COVID-19 cases according to the Department of Health and Social Services data dashboard, the Southwest Region has seen 288 cases and the Northwest Region has seen 560 cases. These numbers include both resident and nonresident cases.

“The ripple effect here affects everybody, and now we are telling our caregivers on the front lines where they have to care for them. There’s no place to go; that leads to a very scary scenario and unfortunately we are knocking on that door,” Kosin said.

Kosin believes more room could be freed up at these hospitals if more people would get the vaccine. He also said if the pandemic keeps going in this direction, hospitals might have to start care rationing and crisis standards.

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