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Arizona hospitals calling in more doctors, nurses due to COVID-19

Posted at 8:46 PM, Jun 24, 2020
and last updated 2021-02-23 20:17:00-05

The number of coronavirus cases continues to climb and hospital beds are filling up as nurses and doctors watch the disaster unfold firsthand all across the Valley.

FULL SECTION: Everything you need to know about coronavirus

“We don’t have resources for much more, honestly,” said one east Valley nurse Monday.

“We are on unstable ground,” said Melody Nungaray-Ortiz on Tuesday, an intensive care nurse from Banner University Medical Center.

Hospitals have prepared for months with this scenario in mind, ready with extra beds when surge capacity is reached. A surge line has been set up by the state to allow patients to be transferred to hospital systems that have more room.

Northern Arizona hospitals have already volunteered to step up if Maricopa County is overwhelmed. But that doesn’t solve the problem. Here’s how one emergency room doctor put it this week.

“It’s not straight-up real-estate of hospital beds, it’s really the ability of the hospitals to staff those ICU beds,” said Dr. Benjamin Reeser, an emergency room doctor at Abrazo Central Campus.

As staffing is now in short supply across all Arizona hospitals, both ICU and inpatient bed capacity hovers around 85%.

“We are getting really close to the point where we are going to have unsafe ratios and patient care is going to suffer,” said Nungaray-Ortiz.

Nurses and support staff say they’re caring for more patients than they can handle.

Banner, the state’s largest hospital system, is now bringing in help from outside and inside the state.

“We’re this backup army so to speak and we’re ready to get in there and do the work again,” said Dr. Andrew Carroll, a board member of the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Dr. Carroll runs a private family medicine clinic in Chandler called Atembis.

Within weeks, he’ll be on the frontlines of this pandemic. He’s one of the dozens of local providers recruited over the last few months.

“Even with the COVID surge people still have heart attacks, people still get pneumonia, people still have trauma in accidents,” said Dr. Carroll.

The hospital is also recalling retirees and traveling nurses, some who saw the same situations play out inside New York hospitals.

Dr. Carroll says It’ll take an all hands-on deck approach to control what’s on the horizon.

“It really is a very dangerous situation for us to be in,” said Dr. Carroll. “We actually got the call out yesterday and they wanted availability three days from then, so they need people now.”