ROCHESTER, Minn. — Craig Daniels trained for this moment. For nearly two decades, he has worked as a critical care physician at the Mayo Clinic, one of the world’s leading hospitals. His team in the intensive care unit has helped save the lives of hundreds of coronavirus patients.
But amid a seemingly endless pandemic, he admits to some discouraging days.
“There’s this assumption that two years into the pandemic, health care somehow should have hired more people,” Daniels said as patients trickled into Mayo’s snow-dappled campus Wednesday. “But the truth is that we are at the limit. … The people who draw blood. The people who work night shifts. The people who sit in rooms with patients who are delirious. They’re tired. We’re all tired.”
Doctors at this elite institution are confronting the same challenges as their colleagues everywhere: exhaustion, burnout and exasperation at patients who still refuse to mask up and get vaccinated. And that was before the arrival of omicron, the most transmissible variant yet, which is sickening staffers as well as patients and fueling workforce shortages.
As a result, health-care systems nationwide are canceling elective procedures, turning away requests to take emergency medical services patients and grappling with workers calling in sick. Multiple states have deployed the National Guard to help support stressed hospitals, often by simply managing administrative tasks such as helping deliver food or cleaning dirty rooms.
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