Alaska’s largest hospital expects health care rationing to last weeks

Woman in green print shirt
Dr. Kristen Solana Walkinshaw, chief of medical staff at Providence Alaska Medical Center, updated reporters on the status of the COVID-19 crisis at the hospital. (Screenshot from Zoom session)

The COVID-19 crisis continues at Alaska’s largest hospital, a week after it announced it’s begun rationing health care.

Dr. Kristen Solana Walkinshaw, chief of medical staff at Providence Alaska Medical Center, said patients have died while a rationed resource, such as continuous dialysis and intensive care beds, went to others. She said COVID-19 is even devastating labor and delivery.

“The place where things should be happy all the time, they’re having a really, really rough go,” she said. “Pregnant women with COVID are having terrible outcomes.”

She said she knows of pregnant moms who died of COVID-19. One, she said, had to go from delivery to the intensive care unit.

RELATED: How Alaska’s largest hospital reached its tipping point

Solana Walkinshaw said Providence is likely to continue on its crisis footing for at least another two weeks.

The state reported high numbers of new COVID-19 infections over the weekend.

From Friday through Sunday, the state tallied a total of 2,108 new cases, 2,054 are Alaskans and the rest are nonresidents who tested positive in Alaska.

Also, on Monday, the state reported another five recent COVID-19 deaths — two Anchorage women in their 60s, a Homer woman in her 60s, an Anchor Point man in his 60s and a Sitka man in his 50s.

There are 198 patients hospitalized with COVID-19, according to state data, slightly fewer than on record-setting days last week. COVID patients continue to occupy about 20% of Alaska’s hospital beds and nearly half of the intensive care beds.

State health authorities say the vast majority of COVID patients in the hospital are unvaccinated. 

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Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Alaska Public Media. She reports from the U.S. Capitol and from Anchorage. Reach her at lruskin@alaskapublic.org.