Omicron is inundating a healthcare system that was already buckling under the cumulative toll of every previous surge, writes Ed Yong in an article for the Atlantic.
When a healthcare system crumbles, this is what it looks like. Much of what’s wrong happens invisibly. At first, there’s just a lot of waiting. Emergency rooms get so full that “you’ll wait hours and hours, and you may not be able to get surgery when you need it,” says Megan Ranney, an emergency physician in Rhode Island.
When patients are seen, they might not get the tests they need, because technicians or necessary chemicals are in short supply. Then delay becomes absence. The little acts of compassion that make hospital stays tolerable disappear. Next go the acts of necessity that make stays survivable. Nurses might be so swamped that they can’t check whether a patient has their pain medications or if a ventilator is working correctly. People who would’ve been fine will get sicker. Eventually, people who would have lived will die. This is not conjecture; it is happening now, across the United States.