Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville | Photo by Advocate Medical Group

Hospitals in Lake County have routinely been going on bypass — meaning they don’t accept new patients from ambulances — due to staffing shortages and an influx of COVID-19 patients.

Advocate Aurora Health, which operates 26 hospitals in Illinois and Wisconsin, held a press briefing on Monday.

The organization said they are seeing more COVID-19 patients in their hospitals than at any point during the pandemic.

The hospital system said they were treating 1,491 in-patients with COVID across their 26 hospitals as of Monday.

Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville was treating 70 patients with COVID-19 and Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital was treating 61 patients with COVID-19 on Monday.

Mary Beth Kingston, the Chief Nursing Officer of Advocate Aurora Health, said that those are “very concerning numbers.”

“People who are so ill they require hospitalization. This points to the critically important need to be vaccinated and to receive a booster if eligible,” Kingston said.

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92% of Advocate Aurora Health’s in-patients are either unvaccinated, have only received their first dose of the vaccine or are due for their booster, according to Kingston.

Most of the 8% who were fully vaccinated and boosted either had an underlying condition or were immunocompromised, Kingston added.

“The situation is growing more challenging by the day. Beds are very tight and wait times are long. And really significantly our team members are under, I think, a lot of stress right now,” she said.

According to radio traffic between dispatchers and fire department ambulances, Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville went on either partial or full bypass three times in a single day on Sunday.

Bypass is when hospitals are unable to accept any additional patients and tell ambulances to transport new patients to other hospitals.

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When a hospital is on bypass, people who show up on their own — not in ambulances — are not allowed to be turned away.

Three of Lake County’s main hospitals — Advocate Condell, Northwestern Lake Forest, and Vista Medical Center East in Waukegan — have all routinely been going on bypass in recent weeks, according to records kept by Lake and McHenry County Scanner.

One source told Lake and McHenry County Scanner that Advocate Condell’s emergency room waiting area has been “packed” during the latest COVID surge.

Some people have to wait several hours to be seen at peak times when dozens of people are in the waiting room, the source said.

The source also said that Condell’s emergency room has approximately 80 beds but only uses about half of those due to staffing issues.

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Data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) shows Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital had just two ICU beds available Monday afternoon and Advocate Condell had four available ICU beds.

At Vista Medical Center East, the hospital reported having no available in-patient beds on Monday with all 112 inpatient beds occupied.

Last Friday, Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said hospitals in Illinois are seeing approximately 500 new COVID-19 patient admissions a day.

“There is a health care worker shortage in Illinois, in the U.S., and across the world. We’re seeing health care workers leave the profession because they are burnt out after watching people suffer severe illness and even death for almost two years now,” Ezike said.