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    Alaska hospital association president addresses COVID testing, healthcare capacity

    By AlaskaWatchman.com

    Jared Kosin is president and CEO of the Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Association, which represents more than 65 hospitals, nursing homes, and other healthcare organizations that employ over 10,000 Alaskans.

    Jared Kosin

    The Watchman sent several questions to Kosin in order to clarify the impact of COVID-19 on Alaska’s hospitals. In particular we wanted evidence for recent claims in the mainstream media that COVID-19 is overwhelming some Alaska hospitals. While Kosin could not provide that evidence, he did respond to our questions and provided some insight into the state of local healthcare facilities at this time. His answers are published below.

    Do hospitals keep track of hospitalizations due to COVID related illnesses vs. hospitalizations in which someone is admitted for another reason, but tests COVID positive? For example, a woman who is hospitalized in order to give birth, but who also tests positive for COVID without exhibiting any COVID symptoms?

    KOSIN: Yes, this generally would be considered clinical information that is documented in the patient’s medical record.

    It has been repeatedly said that hospital capacity is not accurately portrayed merely by looking at the number of available beds and ventilators, but that healthcare staff is also important to keep in mind when thinking about hospital capacity. How does the state determine whether a hospital is over-burdened because of a lack of health care staff? Is there a concrete number that indicates when staffing has fallen to critical levels? What is this number?

    KOSIN: It is correct that bed capacity cannot be defined by physical beds because there are more physical beds than caregivers (i.e. “staff”) available to render care for those beds.  “Staffed capacity” constantly changes, especially as caregivers are pulled off the front lines for extended periods of time due to COVID infections or exposures in the community.  Based on these dynamics, there is no number for Alaska’s total bed capacity.

    Health care and health care delivery are significantly different depending on the location/market.  For example, hospital care in rural Alaska looks completely different than it does in Anchorage.  Excess capacity in one market is often limited to that market, so it is not necessarily available to other areas in need, and a statewide view of capacity fails to account for this.  For these reasons, regular, direct communication with the facilities is the way to determine if a hospital is being overburdened because of lack of health care staff (or other reasons).  The Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association is in regular communication with the hospitals and the State, and communication has been effective so far on all ends.

    Are hospitals historically understaffed at this time of year?

    KOSIN: There always is a need for staff/workforce to some degree.  Hospitals are often busier this time of year due to flu season and other factors.  Generally, when operations are busier, there is more pressure on staffing.  With that said, the pressure from COVID-19 on facilities and staff has been extraordinary and incomparable to prior years.

    How does current hospital staffing compare to the staffing levels in recent years (2019 and 2018)? 

    KOSIN: This is not actively tracked at the state level, and it would be highly variable from facility to facility.

    How does hospital availability (in terms of beds) compare to recent years at this time of year?

    KOSIN: This is not actively tracked at the state level, and also is highly variable from facility to facility.  The state dashboard that highlights bed capacity was set up in April 2020 and did not exist before then, so there is no prior year benchmark for comparison.

    To your knowledge, are any Alaska hospitals turning patients away because of being understaffed or due to a lack of beds?

    KOSIN: No. Hospitals take pride in caring for our patients and making sure all their needs are met.  We do not turn patients away.  Hospitals are subject to EMTALA (federal law) and have a duty to treat all patients who come to the Emergency Department.  Moreover, hospitals frequently work together on patient transfers between facilities when higher level of care or more resources are needed.

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    Joel Davidson
    Joel Davidson
    Joel is Editor-in-Chief of the Alaska Watchman. Joel is an award winning journalist and has been reporting for over 20 years, He is a proud father of 8 children, and lives in Palmer, Alaska.

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    5 Comments

    1. In other words, we don’t have a COVID emergency, we have a medial services staffing management issue. That does not warrant the draconian emergency mandates being widely implemented by Democrat mayors across Alaska. Time for politicians to start opening up businesses and being proactive in supporting the medical community needs to handle this virus.

      • Agree. Businesses are capable of setting their own parameters and the CDC standards of hand washing, distancing, a mask if needed in close proximate, have been working. Anchorage numbers are dropping steadily and the ridiculous lockdown was absolutely not needed! So infuriating. Soon we will have increased numbers of mental health issues to march any Covid numbers…..
        Lastly, the seemingly higher numbers in Matsu right now are a result of a backlog from a lab that for a month or so we’re not getting test results uploaded properly. We are seeing that catchup and there is no need for panic. The valley has been steady and pretty low overall.

    2. So, the hospitals “generally” would document actual “Covid 19″ related illnesses and also the non-related illnesses of people who happen to test positive for ‘Covid 19” without symptoms, meaning they could “generally” differentiate between active and non-active cases. Do they actually make that differentiation when reporting cases? The rest of his answers, except for not turning patients away, were either not pertinent to the question or he didn’t know. Clear as mud, I’d say.

    3. Question how much money from the Cares Act is directed to numbers determined by non active cases when a patient has no need of covid care actually ? This invites Fraud by numbers & whom is watching the fox in the hen house?
      Oversight I bet is nil ! The only SAVING grace to wilful fraud is the money will soon run out! Don’t get me wrong care under federal law will be administered until the pain goes away!

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