DULUTH, MN-- According to the Minnesota Department of Health, the number of people in the ICU is at its highest level this year and hospitals are feeling the strain.
In the Northland, hospitals are facing a 1-2 punch of COVID related problems due to a lack of ICU beds and short staffing causing places like Essentia Duluth to divert patients.
That means the hospital doesn't have room for them and the patients have to go somewhere else.
No beds and limited staff is a concerning combination for critical care workers like Dr. Christina Bastin de Jong, who knows the importance of timing in emergencies.
"I worry that there are patients out there that need very quick care. Timing makes a huge difference, and that they are just not able to do that," said Dr. Bastin de Jong.
These problems are not unique to Duluth.
Jean MacDonell, CEO of Grand Itasca Clinic and Hospital and Fairview Range, said they have been diverting patients for two weeks.
"The availability of beds in our own facility and the availability of beds at that next-level care facility like Duluth and the Metro really limit our ability to transfer patients out, and that's really concerning," said MacDonell.
It is concerning because emergencies don't stop while COVID cases in their community rise.
"We worry about the needs of the community as far as traumas, car accidents, heart attacks, just basic health care needs that come into our emergency room and not having a spot for them in our facility, or if we are not able to transfer them having to hold those critical patients until we can find them a bed," said MacDonell.
Hospital leaders from across the region are wishing more people would understand the pressure they're feeling.
"A lot of people are done with it, but we are not done with this. It is not done with us," said Dr. Bastin de Jong.
Hospital leaders ask that people make regular visits to their primary healthcare provider to prevent visits to the emergency room and urge everyone to get vaccinated.