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COVID CARE BURNOUT: 'I can't do it anymore. I'm leaving.'

Henderson County Commissioner Daniel Andreotta wants people to appreciate and thank the nurses, CNAs and other caregivers who are suffering burnout from the physical and emotional hardship of the Covid-19 response that has now endured for 18 months.

"They've been stretched thin," Andreotta said last week during the commissioners' comments at the tail end of the board's regular meeting. "They're drained, they've worked overtime, they've lost patients. I'm hearing more and more that a lot of them are reaching their mental and emotional limit. Keep those folks in your prayers. If you don't have anything else to do find one of those folks and send them a card or a fruit basket or something, a thank you and encourage them. Sometimes those little gestures mean a lot.

"I heard this past week, a young lady who was in a particular set of circumstances as a nurse and if she gave 10 years in a particular field of nursing then her student debt would be forgiven tax free, which in her case was about $200,000. She lacks 30 months; she's seven plus years in.

She said, 'I can't do it anymore. I'm leaving.' So you gotta be pretty worn out to not be able to turn 30 months into an extra two-hundred thousand tax-free dollars. But the human spirit has got its limits. So let's remember these folks. You see somebody out and about in scrubs, just like law enforcement, go up to them and thank them. We wouldn't want to have had their role for almost the last two years now. Just encourage those folks, because we sure are glad they're there when we need them."

Evidence is growing statewide and nationally that coronavirus care is leading to burnout at hospitals, clinics, schools and other facilities.

The late summer surge of Covid-19 hospitalizations — driven by the delta variant and a state population that remains nearly 50 percent unvaccinated — has severely taxed an already burdened health care system, Carolina Public Press reported. That’s according to a survey of North Carolina hospitals by the NC Watchdog Reporting Network, which found that facilities are diverting patients, converting areas to Covid wards and delaying procedures to cope. Hospitals say patients are getting sick faster and staying sick longer, extending inpatient and intensive care unit stays across the state.

A survey conducted by the N.C. Nurses Association and released in late August showed nurses are burned out and reeling from the impacts of a staffing shortage that existed before the pandemic, which has only worsened since.

“I’m really concerned about nurses out there right now and I’m even more concerned about the long-term impact this will have on individuals and the profession,” association CEO Tina Gordon said in a statement. Roughly 77 percent of the nurses the association surveyed said their facilities have a severe or moderate shortage of nursing staff.

AdventHealth Hendersonville spokeswoman Victoria Dunkle said the Fletcher hospital is currently seeing younger and sicker patients. Although the average length of stay for patients with respiratory infections and inflammation, which includes COVID-19 patients, is 5.66 days, Dunkle said sicker COVID-19 patients are staying an average of 13 days, with some being in the hospital’s care for a month or more.

At a meeting of the Henderson County School Board on Monday, Aaron Fishler, a respiratory therapist at Mission HCA in Asheville, urged the School Board to continue the mask mandate in the county schools.

"It has not been getting better," he said of the Covid patient load and pressure on the medical staff. "Our pediatric ICU is now half full of Covid patients and all of our adult ICUs are full to the brim. We are tired and I am asking you guys to continue with the mask mandate."