An isolation tent for an emergency department in Walnut Creek, California, in March 2022.
Enlarge / An isolation tent for an emergency department in Walnut Creek, California, in March 2022.

Hospitals across the country are in crisis due to a huge wave of seasonal respiratory illnesses, as well as longer term problems such as staffing shortages.

People with urgent health problems are waiting hours in emergency departments, and some hospitals have pitched tents to house them.

The emergency department of a Seattle-area hospital became so overwhelmed last month that the charge nurse called for help and told the fire department that they were in dire straits. There were over 45 people in the waiting room.

Central Kitsap Fire and Rescue sent a crew to the hospital to help with the crisis.

The president of the hospital acknowledged last week that things aren't getting better. There are more than 300 open positions at the facility, but no one has applied for any of them. There were no candidates interviewing in the emergency department. "I don't know how to say zero."


Beyond capacity

According to a report last month, over 300,000 health care providers dropped out of the workforce last year because of stress.

Flu, rhinoviruses, and enteroviruses are surging as the weather starts to get cold. Hospitals for children are full. The intensive care units for children are full.

Emergency department wait times in Pittsburgh are as long as eight hours and a children's hospital sees a crush of patients. Hospitals in Oakland and San Francisco are seeing more patients than at any other time during the Pandemic.

The intensive care units are at full capacity. There are children in the emergency department who haven't been sent up to the floor because the hospital beds have been taken. Hospitals are not taking children from outside the area that they normally take.

Children aren't the only ones waiting. Adult patients in Massachusetts General Hospital were lined up in hallways waiting for a bed. Massachusetts is also feeling the double-whammy of a surge in patients and understaffed facilities according to the Boston Globe. There are an estimated 19,000 unfilled positions in Massachusetts according to a report last week.