COVID hospitalizations: Pa. healthcare system at 'brink of collapse,' doctor says

Many hospitals in Pennsylvania are inching closer to crisis mode as they fill up once again with COVID patients.
PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- There is an alarming uptick in coronavirus hospitalizations.

As of Thursday, there are 65,000 patients receiving care across the nation. That's up by 20,000 compared to a month ago. And thousands of those patients are in the tri-state area.

Many hospitals in Pennsylvania are inching closer to crisis mode as they fill up once again with COVID patients.

"The healthcare system in Pennsylvania is at the brink of collapse," said Dr. Gerald Maloney, Chief Medical Officer of Geisinger Health System.

Geisinger Health System, one of the state's largest health systems, says it's running out of beds across its nine hospitals in central and northeastern Pennsylvania.

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"People continue to come with strokes, heart attacks, car accidents and it is hard to get them out of the ambulance because we don't have a place in the emergency department to put them," said Dr. Maloney.

The Action News Data Journalism Team discovered Pennsylvania leads the tri-state area in COVID hospitalization with over 4,000 patients. New Jersey has over 1,400 patients hospitalized and Delaware follows with more than 300 patients.

When it comes to daily cases, Pennsylvania also takes the lead with over 7,000 cases, which is among the highest in the U.S.

"When you look at the number in the ICU that require a ventilator, that is now up to like 59%, so more than half of those patients with COVID require a ventilator," said Rob Shipp with the Hospital and Health System Association of Pennsylvania.

He says it seems no hospital is escaping the COVID surge.

"From the northeast side to the northwest side, to down in the south central, so all over Pennsylvania, hospitals are feeling a demand on beds," said Shipp.

SEE ALSO: COVID cases rising in New Jersey and around the country

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"We know what the virus will do. We just don't know what the humans will do," said Dr. John Wherry with the University of Pennsylvania.



Health experts blame the recent uptick in cases on holiday gatherings and the unvaccinated. They say by far the biggest concern is still the delta variant, but they are keeping an eye on the new omicron variant.

"Of all the patients in our hospitals who have COVID, 88% have not been vaccinated. Forty-six percent of our ICU beds are taken up by these patients, mostly unvaccinated," said Dr. Maloney.

With Christmas and New Year's Day around the corner, doctors fear the situation will not get better anytime soon.

"We will persist regardless of what the conditions are, but do we want to get into a situation where we have to bring refrigerator trucks into the parking lot to hold all the deceased patients? No. We don't want to do that," said Dr. Maloney.

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