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State leaders prepare for patient 'surge' with more beds, calls for retired doctors and nurses

Hospital Generic
Posted at 10:01 PM, Apr 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-10 23:38:04-04

PHOENIX — Arizona leaders are rapidly working to set-up more ICU beds and find more nurses and doctors for the expected surge of COVID-19 patients.

St. Luke's has been closed since November, but in three weeks, state leaders hope to have 339 ICU beds available for the likely influx of hospitalized patients that models and experts predict.

"These beds will provide additional surge capacity for Maricopa County if they need it," said Governor Doug Ducey.

If the beds are needed, doctors and nurses will be as well.

"This includes any health care professionals who are currently retired but may be able to step in, volunteer and help," said Ducey.

To make that return to work, and the dangerous frontlines, more appealing, Governor Ducey issued another executive order, which will provide liability protection to medical staff fighting COVID-19.

"The executive order will further our efforts to recruit personnel to staff existing facilities, this facility, and other alternate care sites and help us save Arizonans," said Dr. Cara Christ, Director of the Arizona Department of Health Services.

The majority of the hospital though, will be staffed by a major healthcare provider.
The state said they reviewing proposals this week for who will get the St. Luke's contract.

"We are working with our partners and we do have full confidence that it will be fully staffed," said Dr. Christ.

State leaders also looking to set-up similar medical facilities in Coconino and Pima counties.

The state is also promising more data this Sunday on the State's Health Department Website, weeks after ABC15 starting asking for specific numbers.

"Beginning around noon, the site will include the following information:
- Race and ethnicity information on confirmed cases.
- Location information of confirmed cases by zip code,
- Ages and gender or COVID related deaths.
- Number of hospital beds and ICU beds available.
- Number of beds in use for COVID-19 treatment.
- Data regarding the hospitalizations and number of ER visits for COVID-19 related treatment.
We will continue to update this website daily at 9 and we are working around the clock to increase additional reporting," said Dr. Christ.

Governor Ducey is also watching the state budget numbers, which some experts predict could have a billion-dollar shortfall. He was reassuring in his response to Arizona, and said the health crisis is taking precedent.

"There is a life line coming from the federal government," said Gov. Ducey. "There are no needed cuts to state government today...we have money in the bank."

Right now, budgets can wait. Arizonans are dying everyday because of COVID-19.
But state leaders are optimistic our state is mitigating the pandemic.

"We are seeing some positive indicators," said Dr. Christ. "We continue to see proof that Arizonans are practicing physical distancing."

"Our hope is that we never have to use these beds," said Ducey.

Two other significant announcements on Thursday:

The governor said that in a couple of weeks Arizonans will be able to use food stamps to buy food online.

Second, the state health department just got their 15 COVID-19 testing machines from the federal government.

The machines turn around results in 15 minutes and Dr. Christ said they will be distributed across the state and will prioritize getting quicker results for our most vulnerable.