Largest hospital in Graham Co. in need of ICU nurses as COVID-19 cases increase 622%

Posted at 8:18 PM, Nov 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-16 23:36:34-05

SAFFORD, AZ — The largest hospital in Graham County is in need of ICU nurses as the hospital hit surge capacity over the weekend.

ABC15 spoke with the CEO of Mount Graham Regional Medical Center on Monday about the need for ICU nurses.

"Today (Monday) we don’t have as many patients in our ICUs,” said Roland Knox, CEO of Mt. Graham. "Some of them have been discharged, and we did transfer two of those patients one for COVID and one for non-COVID."

The hospital has the ability to add surge space inside the ICU which would add 50% more beds, but it doesn’t mean there will be staff.

“Today we would not have the capacity to be able to fill all of those 37 beds and to be able to staff it,” said Knox.

According to ABC15’s data analyst Garrett Archer, Graham County has seen a 622% increase in cumulative cases since July 16.

Graham County’s Health Director said in an email on Monday that up until recently, they were able to contact trace new COVID-19 cases to a known positive case, but that’s not the case now.

“In the last couple weeks, in many instances, we are no longer able to trace our new cases back to a previously known case. Because of this, we now have community spread,” said Brian Douglas, Graham County Health Director.

Douglas said that the rise in cases are not from one particular entity but from large social gatherings, schools, sports, and businesses.

The main concern for the rural part of Southeastern Arizona is overwhelming the healthcare system.

"I am recommending to implement community mitigation measures to our local leaders to slow the spread of COVID-19,” said Douglas.

However, it is unclear what those mitigation measures recommendations are as Douglas did not respond to email requests.

Graham County does not have a mask mandate in place.