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Banner Health official says hospitals are strained, 'no signs of this surge letting up'

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Posted at 10:20 PM, Dec 28, 2021

PHOENIX — In a press conference Tuesday, a top Banner Health official said their clinical staff is stretched thin and some of their hospitals are over capacity amid this surge in COVID cases.

Banner Health Chief Clinical Officer Dr. Marjorie Bessel urged the public to get vaccinated and boosted and advised against being in large crowds regardless of vaccination status this New Year’s weekend as hospitals remain strained.

“We expect that volumes will continue to increase through the beginning of next year before peaking in mid-January,” Dr. Bessel said. “Currently, COVID patients account for 40% of our ICU patients. Nearly 90% of those COVID ICU patients are unvaccinated.”

While she confirmed there were no triage tents set up at Banner Health hospitals, she said there is very limited ICU availability.

Other health professionals in the Phoenix area told ABC15 they’re seeing the same thing in their hospital systems.

Emergency room nurse Roberto, who wanted to keep his full name and workplace anonymous, said it’s been difficult to balance both COVID and non-COVID patients because of the amount of time it takes caring for each COVID patient.

“That patient population takes a lot of work and being short on nurses and physicians, it obviously puts a burden on the hospital systems here in the Phoenix area,” Roberto said. “It’s a mental drain.”

Dr. Bessel urged everyone to get vaccinated, get boosted, wear a mask when indoors, don’t go out if you’re sick, and if you’re having symptoms, get tested.

“Our workforce is very tired. Many of them had to forego their celebrations and holidays so that they could be there to take care of our very sick patients,” Dr. Bessel said. “I would ask everybody out there to think about that, two years in, and do your part.”

Health officials are also urging you to consider going to your primary care doctor or an urgent care center for medical help.

Only go to the emergency room if you’re experiencing life-threatening symptoms.

Banner Health said that may include:

· Difficulty breathing

· Shortness of breath

· Chest or upper abdominal pain or pressure

· Fainting, sudden dizziness, weakness

· Changes in vision

· Confusion or changes in mental status

· Any sudden or severe pain

· Uncontrolled bleeding

· Severe or persistent vomiting or diarrhea

· Coughing up or vomiting blood

· Suicidal feelings

· Difficulty speaking

· Unusual abdominal pain