A recent report says the surge of COVID-19 patients at Roseland Community Hospital has left staff members exhausted in an overcrowded facility where many employees have quit.
The news comes as the Omicron variant continues to ravage Chicago’s Black neighborhoods where last week 70 people died of COVID-19, according to a Crusader analysis of public health data.
On Tuesday, January 11, the city began distributing 1.5 million KN95 masks as stronger protection against the fast-moving Omicron variant.
At Roseland Community Hospital, the surge is reportedly taking a toll on employees as new patients flood a facility that’s struggling to keep up with the demand for medical services.
According to a report in the Chicago Sun-Times, the number of COVID-19 patients at Roseland has tripled since September, going from a daily average of 21 new patients to an average of 70, with half infected with the coronavirus.
Roseland Community Hospital’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Khurram Khan said in the report that initially, most of the COVID-19 patients at the hospital were un-vaccinated. He said that currently, 10 to 15 percent are vaccinated patients who have received booster shots. Khan also said the hospital is short-staffed and workers are “exhausted.”
According to Khan, many hospital staffers have quit for higher-paying jobs. He also said that “All our nurses are agency nurses; the state nurses, overnight, decided not to come.”
Another problem is that the Omicron variant is not as deadly as the Delta strain, keeping sick patients alive longer, crowding outpatients who do not have COVID-19.
Ninety percent of Roseland’s patients have no private health insurance, a third of the residents in the surrounding community live in poverty, a quarter are unemployed, and the infant mortality rate is 50 percent higher than elsewhere in Chicago, the report revealed.
As of January 11, at least 262 residents in and around Roseland have died of COVID-19. The zip code where the hospital operates, 60628, had a positivity rate of 18.1 percent, which is higher than the city’s 17.9 percent. About 62.7 percent of residents in that zip code have received at least one shot of the Moderna, Pfizer or Johnson & Johnson vaccines.
The report said there were no rooms to place eight patients who, on hospital beds and in wheelchairs, waited near an Emergency Room nursing station.
Further, the report said one patient is in an office chair and all of the facility’s 19 small rooms were occupied by a COVID-19 patient.
Roseland Community Hospital reportedly has a total of 125 beds, but an administrator in the report said the facility is, “no better than those in Third World countries.”
The hospital lobby reportedly has been converted to a COVID-19 testing and vaccination station. According to the Sun-Times, recently, a line of people waiting to be tested “stretched out the door, around the corner, down the block, all the way to Wentworth Avenue.”
Meanwhile, the COVID-19 death toll in Chicago’s Black neighborhoods continues to rise at a higher rate than most of the city’s community areas.
Last week at least 70 people died in 20 of the city’s Black zip codes. In zip code 60620, which includes Auburn Gresham, Chatham and Beverly, 10 residents died from the disease. In Englewood’s 60621 zip code, six people died in one week.
At least one COVID-19 victim died last week in 19 of 20 Black populated zip codes.
On Tuesday, January 11, the Chicago Department of Public Health distributed 1.5 million KN95 masks across the city. The masks are being made available at aldermanic offices for constituents and community groups. Residents must call their alderman’s office to receive their free KN95 masks.
Dr. Allison Arwady, Commissioner of Chicago’s Department of Public Health, said vaccination is still the best answer to beating the pandemic.
An eye-opening pre-Omicron study on masks showed it can take about half an hour for two people wearing cloth masks to pass the virus to each other, compared to about 25 hours when both are wearing KN95 masks.
Doctors say the KN95 masks are non-medical grade and fit better than ordinary masks and have a better seal.
Dr. Arwady said there are signs that the deadly surge could be leveling off. “When someone is having a conversation about a mask, when someone is having a conversation about anything else that they are seeking altogether, it is not just, ‘here’s a mask,’ it is ‘here’s a mask and are you vaccinated’,” she said.