By Travis Caldwell, CNN
Dr. Nitesh Paryani, a third-generation radiation oncologist in Tampa, Florida, recently was forced to make a decision that he says he and his family have never had to make in 60 years of treating patients.
A nearby hospital was working to transfer a cancer patient to a location that had adequate treatment options. Paryani said he regularly accepts such patients, but for the first time, could not do so due to the number of those sick from Covid-19.
“We just didn’t have a bed. There was simply no room in the hospital to treat the patient,” he told CNN’s Chris Cuomo in an interview Wednesday.
The latest Covid-19 surge, due largely to the more transmissible Delta variant, is pushing emergency rooms to the brink. Some states are reporting an overflow of ICU patients as well as staff shortages due to burnout and illness.
“Delta is just ripping through the hospitals in ways that we couldn’t have imagined and the strain it’s causing on the health care system is unimaginable,” said Paryani, the medical director of Tampa Oncology and Proton.
Florida, which is home to roughly 6.5% of the nation’s population, has about 17% of US Covid-19 hospitalizations, according to data Wednesday from the US Department of Health and Human Services. At least 100,317 people are reported to be hospitalized for Covid-19, of which, 17,164 are in Florida.
Paryani, who also shared his experiences in an op-ed in The Washington Post, said the cancer patient was later admitted to another facility nearby. Hospitals in the area, however, are beginning to hold off on procedures due to lack of beds, demonstrating that the surge is not only impacting Covid-19 patients; critical care for those in urgent need is slowing down and harder to find.
“What we are seeing is just a tremendous amount of patients coming in. The other day, our emergency room had a 12-hour wait. Almost every hospital in the city is on diversion, meaning they don’t have room to take transfer patients,” Paryani said. “Patients who need complex care simply can’t access it. This kind of strain is something we’ve never seen before.”
Paryani urged Americans to get vaccinated, calling it “the best tool we have” to overcome the pandemic.
“We’re seeing in the hospitals, greater than 90 percent of the people that are admitted in the ICUs are unvaccinated. There is no question that the vaccine is the best option we have. It is also the cheapest option we have. It is the most effective, and there’s really no reason that people should be avoiding the vaccine,” he said.
“There’s not a single patient that we’ve had to intubate because of a complication from the vaccine. The people we’re intubating, the people that are on life support, the people that are dying are the ones that are not vaccinated.”
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CNN’s Lauren Mascarenhas contributed to this report.