As coronavirus cases surge in parts of the United States, some hospitals no longer have enough beds in their intensive care units for COVID-19 patients. Other hospitals may be fast approaching that point, causing concern among officials. Yet it can be difficult to determine which hospitals will soon be under stress, as a surge of new patients can hit unexpectedly.
In Texas, some hospitals in Houston and San Antonio are under considerable pressure. Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital in Houston told an ABC News affiliate that its ICU bed capacity is at 108%. In the Houston region, just over 84% of ICU beds are occupied.
In the San Antonio area, the number of people in ICU beds has doubled in a week. “Local hospitals are slammed, and it’s going to be difficult for us if we continue to see [a surge in hospitalizations],” said Dr. Anita Kurian, assistant director of communicable diseases at the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District, told the Rivard Report.
Texas presents a case study in how quickly concerns over hospital capacity can change. A week ago, Gov. Greg Abbott said that the state’s hospital capacity was “abundant.” Yet the number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in the Lone Star State grew from 2,008 on June 11 to 3,711 on Monday, an increase of 85%.
At a Monday press conference, Abbott was singing a different tune. “The way hospitalizations are spiking, the way that daily new cases are spiking — surely the public can understand that if those spikes continue, additional measures are going to be necessary to make sure we maintain the health and safety of the people of the state of Texas,” he said. Texas is one of 20 states since early June to see a record high daily increase in coronavirus cases.
Arizona is another such state. On Friday, it saw a record 3,246 new cases.
Two weeks ago, 76% of ICU beds were occupied, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services. On Monday, that had increased 84%. But Arizona is an example of how difficult it can be to determine when ICU capacity is dangerously low. Occupied ICU beds reached 83% on June 16 and have held steady in that range ever since.
Eighty-four percent of the 64 ICU beds at Good Samaritan Hospital in Lexington, Kentucky, are currently occupied, but that’s not unusual, said ICU Medical Director Dr. Ashley Montgomery-Yates. “We are usually between 80% and 100% occupied,” she said.
She said that the difficulty for hospitals is that an overwhelming number of COVID-19 cases can hit quickly.
“In late April, we saw 15 new cases come in over three to four days,” she said. Good Samaritan had a plan in place to double its ICU beds if needed.
Since the pandemic, states have put in place plans to deal with limited hospital capacity. From reopening shuttered hospitals to finding locations for temporary Army field hospitals, to, in the case of New York City, using a U.S. Navy vessel. The ship, the USNS Comfort, arrived in March as New York City hospitals were straining under the surge of coronavirus patients. In order to keep hospitals from collapsing, Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued a stay-at-home order that went into effect on March 22. In the end, the USNS Comfort treated only 182 patients, as COVID hospitalization in New York City peaked in mid-April.
In South Carolina, hospitals can request the state to set up “Alternate Care Sites” to handle patient overload, according to the state’s Department of Health and Environmental Control.
South Carolina is another state that has seen record increases in coronavirus cases, reaching a high of 1,155 new cases on Saturday. The SCDHEC tracks the percentage of occupied acute care beds by county on its website. ICU beds are considered acute care beds, although not all acute care beds are part of a hospital’s ICU.
Some parts of the state, such as Orangeburg County, have 90% of their acute care beds filled. But according to a spokesperson from the SCDHEC, Orangeburg hospitals are not experiencing pressure on their acute care bed capacity.
But even hospitals in areas with higher capacity can feel the strain, as new coronavirus cases can increase quickly.
“Tidelands Health has seen a dramatic increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations since last week,” said Dawn Bryant, a senior communications strategist for Tidelands.
Tidelands Health serves parts of Horry and Georgetown counties, both of which have about 82% of acute care beds occupied. Yet 24 new COVID-19 positive patients have been hospitalized at Tidelands’s two acute care hospitals, with another eight awaiting test results.
“Our critical care units are at 84% capacity, and our units caring for COVID-19 patients are at 94% capacity,” said Bryant.
The post Hospitals beginning to feel strain in areas with rising coronavirus cases appeared first on Washington Examiner.