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Some Arizona frontline workers burnt out, leaving job behind

COVID-19 hospitalizations
Posted at 6:12 PM, Aug 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-10 15:23:59-04

PHOENIX — Arizona hospitals are readying for another potential surge in COVID cases.

According to the latest numbers, COVID inpatient hospitalizations are up 18% while ICU admissions are now 20%. This comes as our healthcare system continues to be woefully understaffed.

“A lot of them are burnt out,” said Dr. Frank LoVecchio with Valleywise Health.

“No one, no one, no one will understand what we have seen and what we have been through,” said Former ICU Nurse Paulette Rangel.

Two frontline healthcare tell ABC15 that more than a year into the pandemic, the thought of yet another surge is frustrating and overwhelming.

“I love them, I feel for them, and I wish I was there to help but ultimately I had to take care of myself and my family and my mental health,” said Rangel.

Rangel spent seven years inside a Valley ICU and watched the pandemic take shape firsthand. Already understaffed hospitals, overworked employees, and crisis care standards pushing the risks. All of it became too much, forcing her to leave the position she loved.

“A lot of people left, from the beginning of the year to the time that I left, I want to say just in my unit alone like 20 to 25 nurses left,” said Rangel.

“Now we’re seeing a lot of nurses that were in the COVID unit working during that last two peaks back off,” said Dr. LoVecchio.

Dr. LoVecchio says those nurses are the backbone of patient care. Banner Health, the state's largest hospital system, says nursing vacancies are at an all-time high.

“I think morale is worse today than it was a month ago, and I think it’s because a lot of us feel we had the answer,” said Dr. LoVecchio.

He’s talking about a proven and safe vaccine. But still, less than 50 percent of the state's eligible population have gotten the vaccine. Now leading to a surge of cases in those still unvaccinated.

“A single person with delta variant infection could infect as many as six to ten others, this is compared to two or three others estimated with the original strain of COVID-19,” said Dr. John Mougin with Northern Arizona Healthcare.

Like the Valley, officials with Northern Arizona Healthcare say sadly the vast majority of people coming to the hospital didn’t get the shot.

The situation remains manageable for now, but making sure employees tending to this group continue to get the support they need is a top priority.