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RRH doctor: 'We're running out of nurses and respiratory therapists'


According to one doctor, medical staff at local hospitals are exhausted as they care for the latest wave of COVID-19 patients — more than twice the number who were hospitalized in the peak surge last spring.

Dr. Damanpaul Sondhi, a pulmonologist at Rochester Regional Health, said there are enough beds, thanks to the opening of additional floors at the new Sands Constellation Center for Critical Care.

But he said they're running out of nurses and respiratory therapists to meet the current patient caseload.

"We are working 12-hour shifts and keeping people who are supposed to (have) time off as a backup," he said. "We have seen a couple of our colleagues get sick. Fortunately, they were sick for a few days; they had mild illness."

Sondhi said he is seeing a younger population of patients who have COVID-19 compared to nine months ago.

He said there are 10% to 15% percent fewer patients on ventilators relative to last spring, partly because they are younger and less likely to have underlying conditions.

Doctors have also learned from experience how to delay intubation.

Even though the first doses of a COVID-19 vaccine could be administered to front-line health care workers in the coming weeks, Sondhi does not expect enough of the general population to be inoculated against the virus to slow down the flow of patients to hospitals anytime soon.

"And I understand it's exhausting for (the) community, too," he said. "It's gone too long, but it's a marathon, it's not a sprint, so we all have to continue to follow those guidelines for a long time. Probably until summer or maybe even longer than that."

Hear an interview with Dr. Damanpaul Sondhi:

Beth Adams is a reporter at WXXI News, a media partner of CITY.