A medical doctor who works at both Regional and Providence hospitals says that while hospitals in Alaska are indisputably under pressure, they are not in crisis and the public should not panic.
“There is no rationing of care,” the doctor said. He took issue with the Providence medical professionals who showed up a the Anchorage Assembly meeting on Sept. 14 to tell the Assembly that the hospital is now under a crisis standard of care protocol and that mask mandates are certainly in order.
There is no crisis standard of care, he said: “That is not a term of art.”
If they were, Providence would have requested more ventilators, and the hospital has not done so. If the hospital was in crisis mode, then surgeons would not be performing elective surgeries, but they still are, he said.
It is true that ICU beds are full at Providence, Alaska Native Medical Center, Alaska Regional Hospital, and Central Peninsula Hospital. But that is a normal condition, according to this doctor. Hospitals typically only have enough ICU beds for the expected load of patients.
The only hospital truly in crisis is Central Peninsula Hospital, the doctor said. That’s because about 30 nurses and staff have either tested positive for Covid-19 or were exposed to it and they are in quarantine for several days.
Providence has also 20 nurses and staff who are now off duty because of Covid-19 exposure or infection, and two patients in the hospital have been infected with Covid-19 while they were under Providence’s care; a memo was released this week that noted the patients had been in the hospital’s care for over two weeks, which is how the administration knows the Covid-19 was contracted while there. The infection among medical workers and patients is in Unit 5 North, and a robust testing schedule is now in place.
“We are a long way from having a degree of problem where we are rationing care,” he said. “This goes back to last year, when we stood up the field hospital in Alaska Airlines Center, but never used it, or the outdoor tent at Region for 20-30 patients who would be on ventilators — and they never used it. We have Plan A, B, C, and D, and we are on Plan A and a half.”
The doctor, who spoke on condition of anonymity, disputes the claims of those who said the emergency rooms are holding patients. “That is what they always do,” he said. In fact, the emergency room at Regional is slower than usual, he said.
“Once panic sets in, people stay home, because they are afraid of getting Covid at the hospital,” he said. “People are not getting care for legitimate illnesses.”
He also said there are plenty of ventilators in the state.
A Must Read Alaska reader corroborated the doctor’s story with a stroll through the emergency room welcome area of Providence hospital. The place was nearly empty, as shown in her video that she shared with Must Read Alaska:
The doctor said a number of Anchorage physicians are refusing to see patients who are not vaccinated for Covid-19, and that disturbs him.
“Most of the people who come into the hospital are there because of their decisions.” They eat too much, drink too much, smoke too much or drive too fast, he said. He encouraged doctors to think long and hard about going down the road of not treating patients who made the decisions they make, including to not get the Covid vaccine.