Hospitals brace for more COVID patients as beds fill beyond capacity

Posted at 4:30 PM, Dec 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-23 19:29:57-05

PHOENIX — The news coming from Banner Hospitals is not good. Chief Clinical Officer, Dr. Marjorie Bessel says three Banner hospitals: University, Thunderbird, and Desert are operating above 100% patient capacity.

58% of the patients in the ICU are being treated for COVID-19. Nearly 75% of the hospital ventilators are being used by COVID patients.

“This pressure has caused several Banner hospitals to halt or significantly reduce elective surgeries and procedures,” Dr. Bessel said.

Some of the surgeries being postponed include mastectomies, gallbladder surgeries, and hip replacements. Delaying them can impact outcomes and make matters worse for patients, Dr. Bessel warned.

“I remain in regular contact with Dr. Christ and the Arizona Department of Health Services. I continue to share this concerning data with them and have advocated for stronger mitigation to curb this trend,” Dr. Bessel said.

But the doctor says neither Arizona Health Services Director Dr. Cara Christ nor Governor Doug Ducey are doing all they can to strengthen the state’s mitigation efforts. Even though the Centers for Disease Control urged Arizona to do it.

“The question as to why the Governor has not granted mayors the authority to make mitigation decisions that can be most impactful in curbing the trend has yet to be scientifically answered,” Dr. Bessel said.

Just like Banner, heath care professionals at Valleywise Health are seeing the impact of the growing community spread of the virus, including increased patient admissions and staffing shortages.

“It just happens to be a lot more than we’re used to and a lot more than we’re staffed for,” ICU nurse manager Regina Villa said.

Help is hopefully on the way. But the arrival of nurses from out of state is not expected until after the holidays, sometime in January, about the time most expect the COVID surge to be at its peak.

“Which is why,” Villa said, “we are pleading to families, the public, and the community to be considerate.”

In other words, stay home for the holidays. Limit gatherings to family and make them small intimate affairs. Social distance, wear a mask in public, and stay safe.