Banner Health nears capacity for COVID-19 intensive care patients

Hospital ICU works to handle COVID-19 surge

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Arizona’s spike in COVID-19 patients has hospitals filling up and Banner Health is working to handle the demand. Dr. Christian Bime is the ICU Medical Director at Banner Health University Medical Center - Tucson and the Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Arizona in the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine.

"The numbers keep going up and up and up and we don't know how high those numbers are going to go," Bime said.

He said the ICU at Banner Health is approaching an 80 percent capacity with the vast majority being COVID-19 patients. Nearly all COVID-19 patients in the ICU are on ventilators. The Arizona Department of Health Services shows 88 percent of ICU beds are in use and 46 percent of ventilators are in use which are the highest percentages for both ICU beds and ventilators on the data dashboard.

"This is the worst it has been," Bime said. "We went through the first wave and it was challenging but we did our very best."

He said the community did a good job in the first wave by taking precautions through wearing face masks, staying at home and washing hands. This time around, he said there are more patients and it's unclear when the numbers will go down.

"It's a concern that we might get to the point where we are maxing out our ability to be reorganized and meet the demands," Bime said.

Banner healthcare providers and the hospital administration are working to care for the increased number of patients. He said different hospital systems within Arizona are willing to work together and accept patients from one another if needed.

"Even within larger hospitals that would normally be in competition, there is some coordination and synergy which is great," he said.

Having enough beds is only one piece of the puzzle. Dr. Bime said COVID-19 patients need the maximum level of care which is often more than a typical ICU patient and therefore require more staffing. Doctors and nurses have the added duty to stay in constant communication with a COVID-19 patient's family.

"Not seeing their loved one for weeks, months and it takes a toll," he said. "Imagine trying to paint a picture of someone who is not doing well and might die to some family member who is also struggling."

Banner Health has enough staff to care for its COVID-19 patients and a surge capacity plan exists to call in more healthcare providers if needed, he said.

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