CROWN HEIGHTS, Brooklyn (PIX11) — Top hospital officials in New York City say staffing shortages caused by the omicron variant are wreaking havoc on the health care system, including morgues.
LaRay Brown, the CEO of One Brooklyn Health which is made up of nursing homes and hospitals in central Brooklyn including Brookdale, Interfaith, and Kingsbrook medical centers, told PIX11 News on Friday that staffing shortages continue to plague the health care network.
“One of the things all hospitals, frankly, are struggling with is a shortage of health care professionals, and nurses in the extreme,” she said.
Brown said many of her workers are sick with COVID or home with a family member who is sick. For others, the pandemic has taken a toll on their mental health. And in some cases, she said they’re unvaccinated and not allowed to work because of the state’s COVID vaccine mandate for health care workers. Brown said the trifecta has slowed down operations.
“We may not have enough nurses to do the triaging. Folks stay longer in the emergency department. It takes longer for them to get into a bed,” she said. “And we may not be able to really optimally use the capacity that we have in terms of beds if we don’t have enough nurses.”
A spokesperson for New York City Health + Hospitals told PIX11 News their medical centers are also experiencing more sick calls among health care workers.
“More staff have been out due to omicron, but we’ve also added hundreds of staff members and clinicians to support operations in the past couple of weeks,” the statement said. “We’re also welcoming military teams soon at some hospitals, as announced by President Biden last week.”
The shortage is so bad, some hospitals are having a hard time getting bodies to morgues and funeral homes.
“Our morgue [has been] close to capacity on some days or even at capacity on other days,” Brown said. “The medical examiner’s not taking the bodies. We are aggressively, assertively working with the funeral homes, who have to work with the families, to take the bodies. And so, I think there’s a domino effect.”
The Health + Hospitals network has also experienced a backlog in processing the dead.
“While the toll is not anywhere near what it was in the first surge (of 2020), we know that this virus is still taking too many lives,” the spokesperson told PIX11 News. “We will continue to work with the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner to expand capacity as needed.”
As the state begins to see a small decline in the number of new cases per day, health officials say New Yorkers can help by getting vaccinated and being kind to health care workers, many of whom are working overtime to help heal their patients.
“We have some very hardworking staff,” Brown said. “They are extremely committed to their patients, their communities, and their colleagues. And we want to make sure that we’re giving them as much support as we can.”