Southern Arizona hospitals approaching ICU bed capacity from COVID-19

ICU beds are short in Southern Arizona

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Arizona set a new record for new coronavirus cases on June 16, 2020, topping 2,000 new cases for the first time in one day.

2,392 new cases to be exact, 45 percent higher than the previous record one day increase.

That’s causing concern and issues in hospitals throughout Southern Arizona.

“Everyone is sounding the alarm,” said Dr. Matt Heinz, a hospitalist at Tucson Medical Center. “ICU’s are full.”

And Heinz says it’s not just at TMC but is widespread.

“I’ve talked to many of my colleagues in multiple hospitals in Pima County and there’s a bed here and there,” he said. “That’s about as good as I can say.”

The Chief Medical Officer for Pima County has been sounding the alarm since the spike in cases started in Arizona nearly three weeks after the Governor, Doug Ducey, lifted his stay at home order and began opening up the state.

Governor Ducey has said Arizona has the capacity to handle new cases but that may not be the case going forward.

“We know this is starting to pick up,” Dr. Garcia said. “So we know as that capacity is being sucked up, we can expect to have less cushion in the system.”

That is the case with TMC which just a week ago was accepting patients from other counties. But now finds itself out of COVID-19 bed space.

“So every hospital I know is looking at how we grow capacity,” said Julia Strange, Vice President of TMC.

Strange says part of the issue is the lack of rapid testing, which means a suspected COVID-19 patient can be in an ICU bed while awaiting test results.

“If we don’t have rapid tests available the current process can take up to two days,” she said. “And in the interim we treat the patient as if they have COVID.”

She believes many of the 46 patients waiting on test results will prove to be negative but still they are occupying an ICU bed.

“So we’re imploring the private sector or asking private sector industries to step up and held,” she said.

Another issue is staffing. A hospital bed must be staffed so before more beds are opened up, they currently have 60, they must have the nurses to staff them, which in many cases is one on one care.

“So we are actively recruiting travel nurses to come in and bolster our core staff,” she said. “And provide some relief to the core staff which has been carrying the water.”

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