TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The Banner Health System anticipates reaching over 125% licensed bed capacity following Thanksgiving Day through January.
As of the morning of Nov. 24, their ICU’s were at 64% capacity, system wide. Medical experts said the hospital already began utilizing their surge plan to meet the demand.
“Our space, our beds, our PPE, our supplies, equipment are not likely to be a limiting issue for us. It’ll be staff,” said Chief Clinical Officer, Marjorie Bessel.
According to Bessel, the hospital secured 1,000 out of state medical staff this week and are looking to recruit an additional 900.
“In a normal winter surge there would be 14,000 positions to secure external labor. Last week, there was 20,000 jobs posted. This paints a picture of what the country is going through,” Bessel said.
Bessel said if staff shortages continue, COVID-positive medical staff would be allowed to keep working if they’re asymptomatic, worst case scenario.
“Our staff live with you. They’re out in the community and as community spread continues, the likelihood and risk of our health care workers becoming ill also increases, and not being able to come to work. So please think of that this Thanksgiving,” she added.
Banner Health is preparing to set up three Pfizer vaccine distribution sites across Arizona by December 14 if the vaccine arrives by then, and will prioritize health care workers and first responders.
“We don’t know which vaccine we are going to get or how those shipments will come, whether they’ll come weekly or so. What we expect is that we’ll likely receive about what the population of Arizona is compared to the rest of the country,” Bessel said.
The location of those sites is still to be determined but officials said they’ll be placed wherever the need is greater.
Medical experts do not forecast they will have to limit care to non-COVID patients other than possibly having to delay elective surgeries to create space.