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Arizona Department of Health Services admits errors in coronavirus hospital data

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Posted at 7:27 PM, Jun 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-08 08:11:00-04

Arizona's state health director tells ABC15 Saturday that her staff made errors and reported incorrect hospitalization numbers on the Arizona Department of Health Services coronavirus dashboard since April.

ADHS has been overreporting the number of hospital beds currently available and in use in Arizona, due to staff members' confusion about the hospitals' licensed bed capacity and surge capacity.

The department made changes to the coronavirus data dashboard Saturday.

"When we found that, we were like we need to correct that because that's not right," said Dr. Cara Christ, the state health director.

Public concerns grew this week about Arizona hospital capacity as the dashboard reflected both record numbers of hospitalized coronavirus patients and total hospital inpatient loads at 87 percent of capacity.

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Christ explained, since April 8, hospitals had reported to ADHS their "surge" bed capacity, which they could expand to, if necessary, to handle a large influx of coronavirus patients. These included more than 600 ICU beds and 2,200 general inpatient beds. ADHS employees included these numbers in both total bed capacity and "in use" beds. The department has now removed the surge capacity figures entirely and is only reporting licensed bed capacity.

"We were adding the additional surge beds as filled beds," Christ said.

"The stakes are really high to make these kinds of errors," said Will Humble, executive director of the Arizona Public Health Association and former director of ADHS.

"This is particularly important because it's the data that rolls up into the policy decisions that get made," Humble added. "Perhaps we need some additional oversight."

Dr. Christ said the dashboard changes were made after data validation discussions with hospitals over the last few days. A spokesman for the governor's office told ABC15 both the hospitals and ADHS officials agree the current format is the most "appropriate and accurate way" to reflect hospital bed availability.

With the revised figures, Arizona hospitals are at 76 percent capacity for ICU beds and 80 percent capacity for inpatient beds.

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As of Friday evening, hospitals reported 5,714 filled inpatient beds, including 1,278 coronavirus patients, and hospitals said 1,198 ICU beds were filled, including 391 coronavirus patients, according to ADHS. As of Friday, 22 percent of inpatients and 33 percent of ICU patients had coronavirus, or were suspected of having the virus.