ODH required to release hospital capacity data

Ohio Center for Journalism wins lawsuit against state

By McKenzie Caldwell - [email protected]

After a seven-month-long legal battle, a court ruled that the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) must release information on the number of ICU and ventilators available in the state.

Eye on Ohio, the Ohio Center for Journalism, reported on Nov. 13 that it had won a public record lawsuit regarding hospital capacity numbers against the state.

Earlier this month, the Ohio Court of Claims ruled that the ODH must share public records with Eye on Ohio regarding the number of beds and ventilators available for COVID-19 patients in hospitals throughout the state.

Eye on Ohio first requested statistics on hospitalization capacity, ventilator, and personal protective equipment in late March.

“In times of crisis, transparency is paramount. … When risk communicators are at their best, they remain credible by showing what is known and what is not known and by being clear about why we don’t know, and what we’re going to do to find out,” Ohio University Public Health Professor Dr. Rebekah Crawford said, according to an article from Eye on Ohio on the results of the lawsuit.

In a Monday press release, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s office reported that 5,060 individuals are hospitalized due to COVID-19 in Ohio. Of these patients, 1,180 are in intensive care, and 682 are on ventilators.

According to Dr. Andy Thomas, the chief clinical officer at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, one-third of ICU patients in the state have Covid and one-third of individuals on ventilators have Covid.

“Covid patients are going to start crowding out other people who need that level of care as these numbers continue to rise,” Thomas said. “The reality is that hospitals are making difficult decisions about delaying care. It may be non-urgent care, but it’s care that may cause someone to go to the ICU after surgery. A lot of hospitals are delaying those surgeries because they can’t afford their ICUs to be overtaxed.”

Recently, rural areas have been hit particularly hard right now, Thomas said, and hospitals are voicing concerns about their ability to manage such a high number of intensive care patients.

“The data paints a complicated, constantly changing picture of Ohio’s efforts to ‘flatten the curve,’” Eye on Ohio journalists Lucia Walinchus and Boniface Womber wrote in a Nov. 25 follow-up. “Some hospitals seem to be doing fine, while other hospitals seem to be constantly scrambling for open beds. The result is heavily dependent on where patients live, though overall the number of available staffed beds is shrinking.”

Data compiled by Eye on Ohio indicated that Highland District Hospital had two medical/surgical beds and three ventilators available as of Nov. 24 and Nov. 22, respectively.

According to the ODH, which reported 1,138 cumulative cases in the county as of Monday, of the cases in Highland County:

* 184 cases involved 50- to 59-year-olds. Of these cases, 10 resulted in hospitalization.

* 172 cases involved 60- to 69-year-olds. Of these cases, 11 resulted in hospitalization, and two resulted in death.

* 159 cases involved 40- to 49-year-olds. Of these cases, six resulted in hospitalization.

* 143 cases involved 70- to 79-year-olds. Of these cases, 22 resulted in hospitalization, and six resulted in death.

* 143 cases involved 20- to 29-year-olds. Of these cases, one resulted in hospitalization.

* 129 cases involved 30- to 39-year-olds. Of these cases, one resulted in hospitalization.

* 124 cases involved 0- to 19-year-olds. Of these cases, one resulted in hospitalization.

* 82 cases involved someone 80 years old or older. Of these cases, 13 resulted in hospitalization, and 10 resulted in death.

* Two cases involved patients of unknown ages.

As of Monday, a note on the ODH’s website read, “Today’s data is incomplete. Because of unprecedented volume, thousands of reports are pending review. Please bear with us as we work through this surge in testing.”

Highland County Health Commissioner Jared Warner previously stated that there is a delay in the reporting process between individual counties and the ODH.

A local update from the Highland County Health Department was not available by press time Monday.

Reach McKenzie Caldwell at 937-402-2570.

Ohio Center for Journalism wins lawsuit against state

By McKenzie Caldwell

[email protected]