Where are the 'available' ICU beds in Arizona?

Posted at 3:40 PM, Dec 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-17 21:20:09-05

PHOENIX — The Arizona Department of Health Services reported the fewest number of available ICU beds statewide Thursday since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the state's coronavirus dashboard, 140, or 8%, of ICU beds remain available statewide. However, where those beds are located is information that has not been released publicly by the state.

ABC15 continues to hear from health officials and frontline workers who say there are few - if any - available ICU beds at their facilities. Detailed information on where some available beds are located is seemingly easier to obtain at the local level than the state level, despite the information being reported to the Department of Health Services.

At a City of Surprise council meeting this week, the emergency manager provided a detailed breakdown of available ICU beds at their five area hospitals. She noted that the data, current as of December 11, showed just five available ICU beds at those hospitals, with three of the five hospitals having none available.

Also this week, Valleywise Health confirmed they temporarily hit 100% ICU capacity.

On Thursday, a spokesperson for Pima County told ABC15 as of Wednesday, the county had just seven available ICU beds in their hospitals.

ABC15 is working to figure out where the 140 available ICU beds are located statewide if the state's second-biggest county - Pima - only has seven.

"Absolutely, the math really doesn't work out if they only have seven," said Wendy Smith-Reeve, the state's former emergency management director who is currently an ABC15 analyst.

The Arizona Department of Health Services has previously told ABC15 hospital information collected under an enhanced surveillance advisory is confidential. It is an executive order that requires hospitals to report certain data, such as bed availability.

As part of the executive order, it keeps information confidential that "if made public, would divulge the trade secrets of a person or business."

"That's the language I believe they're taking and applying the most restrictions that they can on that item," Smith-Reeve said.

ABC15 asked where the 140 available ICU beds are located on Thursday, the Arizona Department of Health Services sent the following statement:

"We are in constant communication with hospitals across the state to ensure patients receive the care they need. The Arizona Surge Line continues to facilitate transfers when needed, even with the recent increase in cases.

Hospitals are also required to report the number of ICU and inpatient beds that were identified to meet the 50% capacity increase required per Governor Ducey’s Executive Order 2020-16. These beds are not currently in use and are not reflected in the numbers shown on the dashboard.

ADHS is unable to release this data in order to comply with the enhanced surveillance advisories issued by Governor Ducey. Individual facilities are not bound by the same restrictions. Additionally, local jurisdictions are not barred from releasing aggregate ICU bed data within their jurisdictions, similar to the release of statewide aggregate data by ADHS."