MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Hospital CEOs on Thursday painted a grim picture of Minnesota’s health care system.

In a news conference with Gov. Tim Walz, they begged people to follow the latest restrictions. Without compliance, it’s very possible the state won’t have enough health care workers to go around.

Dr. Penny Wheeler, CEO of Allina, said their hospitals are functioning with 800 workers out because of COVID and quarantines.

“We are perilously close to not being able to even collectively with our best efforts and innovative care models take care of everybody,” she said.

Wheeler says she is begging for people to cooperate.

It was the same plea from Carris Health systems, which are based in Willmar. The systems operate eight hospitals throughout greater Minnesota. They are down 1,200 workers out of 12,000.

“When will we run out of workers? I don’t know,” said CEO Dr. Cindy Firkins Smith.

Rice Hospital in Willmar has, for 10 out of 11 days, had periods where they have not been able to admit patients.

“This is an historically unprecedented number. When our hospital is on divert it means we can’t hospitalize a patient with COVID but it also means we can’t hospitalize a patient that has that heart attack or has that stroke.”

Smith says health care workers struggle with the continued resistance by so many who believe the virus is a hoax, or overblown.

“Not only are our staff exhausted, but they are also frustrated and disheartened,” she said. “Don’t call health workers heroes if you can’t put a piece of cloth or paper over your face to protect them.”

And Walz continued to vent his frustration with Congress, who he says needs to pass another stimulus and relief package now.

“it is simply unconscionable and immoral that the United States Senate and Congress went home on a vacation when they could have moved this piece of legislation,” he said.

Esme Murphy