'There’s no more backup plans': AZ health care workers call for COVID-19 mitigation policy

Published: Friday, January 7, 2022 - 3:55pm
Updated: Saturday, January 8, 2022 - 10:08am
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Arizona health care workers say the state’s hospital system is on the brink of collapse as COVID-19 infections in the state approach record numbers. A group of 1,100 doctors, nurses and public health professionals are sending an open letter to Gov. Doug Ducey and other state leaders demanding assistance.

In the letter, the group Arizona Healthcare United says a lack of policy response in the face of the omicron surge is leading to unsafe working conditions and preventable deaths.

"Continued inaction by our hospital leaders and lawmakers will be viewed by the health care community as an informed decision to ignore the health and safety of the communities you serve and an attack on those sacrificing their health and safety to care for their community," the letter states.

The letter calls for Arizona lawmakers to establish indoor mask requirements, increase access to COVID-19 testing, provide free, high-quality masks to the public and increase funding for air filtration systems in schools and businesses. It also calls on health system leaders to establish stricter mask and vaccine requirements for hospital visitors.

A spokesperson from the governor's office said Ducey is reviewing the letter. The Arizona Department of Health Services did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In a video call with reporters Friday, 10 health care professionals who signed the letter described overcrowding and staffing shortages in their facilities and said they are coping with immense psychological strain.

Dr. Bradley Dreifuss told reporters his Tucson emergency room is dangerously overburdened.

“Patients are waiting in the waiting rooms, sleeping on the floors, sleeping outside the hospital doors, and sometimes, we’ve had events where people are having cardiac arrest, or decompensating and getting very sick and even dying in the waiting rooms,” Dreifuss said.

Dr. Ruth Franks Snedecor said her Phoenix hospital doesn't have enough doctors to cover some shifts because so many workers have recently been infected with COVID-19.

“There’s no more backup plans," Snedecor said. "This is it. We are in a crisis. The hospital systems will collapse."

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