Alaska’s COVID hospitalizations nonetheless climbing, one in 5 sufferers now combating virus

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An entrance sign outside the Providence Medical Center on August 24, 2021. (Jeff Chen / Alaska Public Media)

Alaska’s already overwhelmed hospitals admitted an additional 20 patients with COVID-19 over the long Labor Day weekend, with more than 180 people hospitalized with the virus.

The state reported 186 COVID-19-related hospital admissions on Tuesday, setting a new record. That’s an increase from 165 when the last number was reported on Friday. In addition, 2,059 new cases of the virus were reported over the same four-day period.

More than 20% of patients in Alaskan hospitals have the virus, according to state data.

“The situation continues to bring us to the breaking point,” said Jared Kosin, who heads a nationwide advocacy group for hospitals and nursing homes. “We are broken in many ways, in certain abilities to provide care. It’s bad.”

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In Mat-Su, hospital admissions related to COVID-19 have almost doubled, rising from 21 just five days earlier to 39. The region’s hospital that previously admitted patients from rural areas in need of higher levels of care that in was unavailable to the crowded Anchorage hospitals, no longer accepting transfers.

“We are busy,” said Dr. Tom Quimby, the emergency room medical director at Mat-Su Hospital. “

Quimby said he took a call from the hospital in Soldotna on the Kenai Peninsula on Sunday. They wanted to send a patient to Mat-Su, but Quimby’s hospital couldn’t accept them.

“I think they’ll have to try to see Seattle,” he said, noting that Washington’s health system was also tight.

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Kosin’s organization, the Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association, continues to urge residents to get the COVID-19 vaccines and take other precautions like wearing masks. It has also asked GOP Governor Mike Dunleavy to issue a disaster statement.

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A Dunleavy spokesman said the governor had no plans to make such a statement. Instead, he is calling on the Alaska Legislature to pass two bills he has proposed in support of health care providers. One aims to provide faster admission for nurses to Alaska; the other would allow more health services to be delivered over the Internet.